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Area Braces for Crush of Holiday Weekend Visitors

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Campsites and hotel rooms filled up early Friday as thousands of tourists streamed into Ventura County for that last bastion of summer--the traditional Labor Day weekend.

Forecasters are predicting hot temperatures and poor air quality through Monday, a hazy mixture of smog and smoke filling the east county skies with offshore breezes cooling off the coast.

“It’ll be mostly clear through the weekend, although there will be some low clouds and fog in the mornings,” said Vladimir Ryshko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Oxnard.

“If those fires continue, it could be a little smoky in localized areas,” he said. “But overall, it will be clear and warm, a typical summer-type situation.”

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The Ventura County Air Pollution Control District issued a health advisory Friday, meaning seniors and children were warned to stay indoors. Smog levels are expected to dip slightly today.

“I don’t expect it to be as bad tomorrow,” said Kent Field, a pollution control district analyst. “In Simi Valley and Moorpark, it will be unhealthful, but it will be less than it was [Friday].”

Nonetheless, thousands of families are due to arrive in Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Moorpark this morning as the Labor Day Invitational soccer tournament gets underway at three parks.

More than 150 teams from throughout the state will compete in the sixth annual three-day contest, sanctioned by the California Youth Soccer Assn.

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“This is a competitive, club-level class tournament,” tournament director Armando French said from his Simi Valley hotel room. “We’ve got teams from as far north as Sacramento and as far south as San Diego.”

Traffic into Ventura County was slow most of Friday, with holiday travelers getting early starts to the weekend. The commute was exacerbated by the afternoon closure of California 126, where a freight truck hauling crates of oranges overturned near Piru, spilling citrus across the roadway.

The California Highway Patrol will be stepping up its weekend patrols along the freeways, with 80% of its officers on duty through Monday.

“It’s going to be pretty busy,” CHP Officer Steven Reid said. “It’s the last holiday of the summer and it looks like it’s going to be a nice weekend.”

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By Friday afternoon, smoke from the ongoing Castaic fire in Los Angeles County had dissipated from the Lake Piru Recreation Area, where officials are expecting an influx of campers.

“It’s not even visible anymore,” said Thomas Padilla, a clerk at the Lake Piru marina. “I just heard that Castaic [Lake] is going to be closed for the weekend, so we’re expecting a pretty good crowd.

“But we have plenty of boats for rent,” he said.

The holiday weekend started early for Ray and Pam Neher, who set up camp Friday at McGrath State Beach, where a “Campground Full” sign had already been hung at the entrance.

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“We’re going to sit in the sun, look at the birds, take walks and enjoy each other’s company,” Ray, a Downey subcontractor, said as he lifted a canopy above a nearby picnic table.

About 10 miles north, at Emma Wood State Beach, park rangers said all 61 campsites have been reserved throughout the weekend.

Donna Diaz and her friends reserved theirs early.

“I’d live here if I could,” said Diaz, a teacher’s aide from Orange County who was knee-deep in a card game she called Shanghai rummy. “It’s the end of summer.”

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Not all Ventura County campgrounds filled up, however.

Officials at Lake Casitas Recreation Area predicted that as many as 50 of their 450 campsites would be available tonight on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It’s not full, but we’re getting there,” park aide Kristen Judy said. “We expect a lot more people to come.”

For 11-year-old Charles Neher, who was helping his father set up camp at McGrath State Beach, the holiday weekend means that sixth grade is just around the corner.

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But he said he does not mind.

“Summer day-care was boring,” Charles said. “So I’m looking forward to school starting.”


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