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Communities All Fired Up to Celebrate Independence Day

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Like Hollywood’s mega-hyped, yet-to-be released blockbuster “Independence Day” about aliens attacking Earth, Ventura County’s own version of the Fourth of July promises some heavy-duty action in the skies.

Cities from Ojai to Thousand Oaks are staging eight fireworks shows Thursday that are expected to draw tens of thousands for the nation’s 220th birthday celebration.

Moorpark will throw its party a day early--on Wednesday--at Moorpark High’s stadium with a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll concert at 7 p.m. followed by a 20-minute fireworks display.

“Sometimes the Fourth lands on a day when the people know they have to work the next day and this way they know for sure they have the next day off,” said Patty Lemcke, a Moorpark parks and recreation employee.

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Fireworks are back on tap in Camarillo this year after the city’s parks and recreation district scrapped the long-running event in 1995 because of a lack of money and other problems.

The Pleasant Valley Lions Club, with help from the city, will put on a 25-minute show Thursday at the Camarillo Airport’s Freedom Park.

“It is just not American if you can’t have fireworks on the Fourth of July,” said Bill Little, Camarillo’s city manager. “It was a real disappointment that we couldn’t have it last year.”

A Rialto-based company is producing eight of Ventura County’s nine fireworks shows, which will all begin at dusk. Only Ojai has picked another company.

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A Pyro Spectaculars representative said holiday revelers can choose among pyro-musicals--fireworks accompanied by music and historical narrations--sky concerts--fireworks choreographed to music--and other programs.

“I think they are going to be pleasantly, happily surprised,” said Jean Starr, a show producer for an area that includes Ventura County. “We are constantly putting out new effects and a lot of crackle has come to play recently.”

With 521 shells set to explode over The Oaks mall, Thousand Oaks will feature Ventura County’s biggest--and loudest--fireworks exhibition visible throughout the Conejo Valley, weather permitting.

The Thousand Oaks festivities will begin at 7 a.m. with a nature walk in Wildwood Park. Borchard Park will play host to a pancake breakfast between 8 and 11 a.m. And the Conejo Pops Orchestra will perform a free concert at Conejo Community park at 5 p.m.

A group of skydivers called Blurred Vision is set to rain down on Simi Valley High’s football field at 7:30 p.m. before the start of that city’s fireworks show.

“This will really get people’s attention,” said Rick Johnson, a spokesman for the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District. “It is really spectacular.”

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Gates will open at 2:30 p.m., with country western music and youth activities before the fireworks exhibition, which will also feature lights and action on the ground and historical narration.

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Simi Valley’s day of patriotism will kick off at 10 a.m. with concerts and other activities at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, where the 1st Division Marine Band will perform at 2:30 p.m.

Fillmore officials expect more than 20,000 people to flood into the city for an all-day celebration capped by a fireworks display at Fillmore High School.

But Cecelia Uber, a Fillmore Chamber of Commerce employee, predicts the city’s hot rod show, musical acts and chili cook-off, which begin at 10 a.m. in the downtown area, will be just as fiery as the aerial exhibition.

“We have cooks coming in from New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and Arizona,” Uber said. “This is a terribly important event in the international chili society.”

Uber said more than 60 chili chefs will compete for slots at the national finals in Reno later this year.

More than 40,000 people are expected to flock to Ventura, where a seven-block stretch of downtown will feature the city’s 21st annual street fair with music and 400 arts and crafts booths beginning at 11 a.m.

Jazz bands will perform at Ventura Harbor Village beginning at 12:30 p.m. A noisy parade, for which residents are encouraged to bring their own pot lids or kazoos, will jump-start the day’s events in Ventura when marchers meet at Cemetery Park at 9:30 a.m.

“Everybody can be in that because you just play ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ over and over,” said Faye Campbell, a Ventura special events coordinator.

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Ventura’s fireworks will explode at Ventura College, where gates to the football field will open at 5 p.m.

Oxnard will launch its “pyro-musical” or aerial exhibition with music and historical narration at the new Oxnard High School on Gonzales Road, where gates open at 5:30 p.m. The evening will get rocking with country crooner Juice Newton, who will take the stage at 7:30 p.m.

Ojai will start partying a day early with a free concert at Libbey Bowl on Wednesday.

On Thursday, after a freedom run at 9 a.m. in Libbey Park, Ojai’s annual parade, set to begin at 10 a.m., will wind down Country Club Drive to Ojai Avenue and then Park Road.

The Channel Islands Symphony Orchestra will perform at Libbey Bowl at 6 p.m. Gates will open at 4 p.m. to the Nordhoff High School stadium, where entertainment and a fireworks exhibition featuring a ground model of the city’s post office tower are expected to draw thousands.

In Santa Paula, the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce is again putting on fireworks in Harding Park, where crowds are expected to gather about 7 p.m. The Santa Paula Coalition Against Alcohol and Other Drugs will sponsor a day of activities including music, food and car and bike exhibitions starting at 10 a.m.

“It’s an exciting show,” said Jim Tovias, a chamber official.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Fourth of July Fireworks

CAMARILLO

Freedom Park at the Camarillo Airport, Pleasant Valley Road.

* Gates open: 5:30 p.m.

* Admission: Free

* What you will see: A 25-minute fireworks show.

* Number of shells in show: 440

* Information: 482-1966

FILLMORE

Fillmore High School football field, 555 Central Ave.

* Gates open: 6 p.m., entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m.

* Admission: Free

* What you will see: A nearly 30-minute fireworks exhibition with a brief ground display.

* Number of shells in show: 282

* Other Thursday events: Car show, music and chili cook-off begin at 10 a.m. in Central Park and downtown.

* Information: 524-0351

MOORPARK (Wednesday, July 3)

Moorpark High School stadium, 4500 Tierra Rejada Road.

* Gates open: 6 p.m., entertainment begins at 7 p.m.

* Admission: Free

* What you will see: A 20-minute aerial fireworks display.

* Number of shells in show: 221

* Other Wednesday events: Rock ‘n’ roll concert featuring the Fabulous Chevelles begins at the high school stadium at 7 p.m.

* Information: 529-6864

OJAI

Nordhoff High School stadium, 1401 Maricopa Highway.

* Gates open: 4 p.m., entertainment begins at 4:30 p.m.

* Admission: Advance tickets, $4 per person, $10 per family; at the door, $6 for adults, $2 for children.

* What you will see: Fireworks set to music and a ground exhibition featuring Ojai’s post office tower landmark.

* Number of shells in show: 269

* Other Thursday events: Freedom run at 9 a.m. in Libbey Park followed by a parade at 10 a.m. on Country Club Drive. Channel Islands Symphony Orchestra will perform at 6 p.m. at Libbey Bowl.

* Information: 646-4295 or 649-2729; 497-1902 for Channel Islands Symphony Orchestra

OXNARD

Oxnard High School stadium, 3400 W. Gonzales Road.

* Gates open: 5:30 p.m., entertainment begins at 6 p.m. Viewers must be seated by 8:45 p.m.

* Admission: $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children.

* What you will see: A “pyro-musical,” a fireworks exhibition set to narration and music. The show will also include a ground display.

* Number of shells in show: 229

* Other Thursday events: Juice Newton concert at 7:30 p.m in stadium.

* Information: 385-7578

SANTA PAULA

Harding Park on East Harvard Boulevard.

* Gates open: 7 p.m.

* Admission: Free

* What you will see: Fireworks display set to patriotic music.

* Number of shells in show: 317

* Other Thursday events: Circus Vargas at Teague Park between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. A “Youth and Community in Unity” day at Harding Park with music, food, car and bike exhibitions starting at 10 a.m.

* Information: 525-6697, or for the circus only, 525-5561

SIMI VALLEY

Simi Valley High School football field, 5400 Cochran St.

* Gates open: 2:30 p.m., show begins at 7:30 p.m.

* Admission: Advance tickets, $6 for adults, $3 for children; at the door, $7 for adults, $5 for children.

* What you will see: Skydivers followed by a “pyro-musical,” an aerial display accompanied by music and narration. Show will also feature a ground exhibition.

* Number of shells in show: 229

* Other Thursday events: Concerts at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum starting at 10 a.m. with a 1st Division Marine Band from Camp Pendleton performing at 2:30 p.m.

* Information: 584-4400

THOUSAND OAKS

The Oaks mall, 222 W. Hillcrest Drive.

* Gates open: 7 p.m.

* Admission: Free

* What you will see: Ventura County’s biggest fireworks show. A “sky concert,” an aerial exhibition choreographed to music. The fireworks should be visible throughout the Conejo Valley, weather permitting.

* Number of shells in show: 521

* Other Thursday events: Nature walk in Wildwood Park at 7 a.m. Pancake breakfast in Borchard Park from 8 to 11 a.m. Free Conejo Pops Orchestra concert at 5 p.m. in Conejo Community Park.

* Information: 381-2747

VENTURA

Ventura College football field, 4667 Telegraph Road.

* Gates open: 5 p.m., a stage show begins shortly thereafter.

* Admission: Advance tickets, $6 for adults, $4 for children; at the door, $8 for adults, $5 children.

* What you will see: A “pyro-musical,” an aerial display accompanied by music and narration.

* Number of shells in show: 229

* Other events: Street fair in downtown with bands and vendor booths begins at 11 a.m.

* Information: 642-6797


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