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Ventura County Fair : Celebrating Decades of Wedded Bliss : County fair: Couples renew long-ago wedding vows as Annual Blessing of Marriage kicks off Senior Day.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mary Cimino of Simi Valley recalls those days in wartime Washington as if they were yesterday.

“I was working in the Pentagon; he was in the Air Force,” said Cimino, 75, flamboyantly colorful at the Ventura County Fair on Tuesday in a red top and brightly patterned patchwork skirt. “I was from Rhode Island; he was from Pennsylvania.”

Cimino smiled at her solemn-faced husband of 52 years, John, 72, seated beside her.

“The Air Force had a dance, and he came up and asked me to dance,” she said. “How about that? Two and a half months later, we were married.”

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John and Mary Cimino joined about 15 other couples Tuesday at a hay-strewn lawn where they celebrated their long-ago wedding vows. The 11th Annual Blessing of Marriage Ceremony kicked off the fair’s Senior Day, featuring special events geared to the elderly population.

“Today you are blessed,” Minister Charlie MacLaren of Ventura’s Calvary Assembly told the couples, “to have the mother of your children, the bride of your youth, seated beside you, and you can turn to them and say, ‘I love you.’

“You are a great blessing and an example that I hope will stand for younger generations.”

In addition to the five-minute blessing from MacLaren, the couples received white carnation corsages, bone-colored, marriage-blessing certificates, and big, ruffly blue ribbons.

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Except for the Harrises. Since Glenn and Ruby Harris of Ventura have been married 72 years--longer than anyone else participating in the ceremony--MacLaren handed them a big, ruffly ribbon the color of rainbow sherbet.

“You can’t expect every day to be perfect,” is Ruby Harris’ advice on marital longevity.

“Love one day at a time, and don’t try and rush it,” Ruby, 90, continued. “Some days are good, some are bad.”

The Harrises met in grammar school, dated throughout high school and married after Glenn dropped out of college because he didn’t want to be without his sweetheart any longer.

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He put the situation to Ruby plain and simple one week when he and his roommate, Johnny, were home on break from school. “He said, ‘I want to get married before the weekend because Johnny has to go back to Stanford,’ ” Ruby recalled.

So they did. And Johnny drove back north alone.

Glenn later went into ranching in what is now the California community of Fallbrook and Ruby kept house and watched the children. The Harrises have one son and one daughter, 11 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

“I wanted to get married young so we could enjoy the children,” Ruby said. “I never dreamed we would enjoy the great-grandchildren.”

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The fair’s Senior Day also included a senior dance contest and a senior queen beauty pageant. Aunnie Walker, 80, of Ventura won the crown of senior fair queen after a 20-minute quiz in which participants had to reveal their favorite color and admit where they would go if they could go anywhere in the world.

“I’m thrilled to pieces,” Walker said, clutching a bouquet of roses and sporting a red-felt-and-gold-cardboard crown atop her head. “My husband just dared me to do this a little while ago. I’m really excited.”

The fairgrounds filled with white-haired visitors Tuesday as seniors enjoyed free admission and a whole day with activities planned especially for them.

For the Ciminos, it was a time to reflect on five decades together as they enjoyed gooey foods and live music.

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They met at that Air Force Easter dance, Mary recalled, because “I had a beautiful floral dress on and it caught his eye.”

John recalls the night a bit differently.

“She was sitting there all alone, and I was all alone,” he said. “So I asked her to dance.”

Anyway, they ended up together. And they still go dancing every Friday night.

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“I didn’t think I was going to see him again (after the dance),” Mary said. “You know, during the wartime, soldiers and all.”

She laughed, remembering.

“But the next morning, he was knocking at my door.”


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