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Eat, Drink Not so Merry

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Organizers of the western-theme Simi Valley Days announced Monday that the five-day event drew crowds that could surpass last year’s totals.

Yet a number of nonprofit groups, which run their own venues within the festival, estimated they made less money this year.

Kiwanis of Simi Valley, which runs the festival’s largest fund-raising event--the carnival--reported it may be down $10,000 from the more than $25,000 made last year. The group distributed last year’s proceeds to 31 nonprofit organizations and schools.

While the Kiwanis Club has yet to tally the figures from the carnival, which ended Sunday, it has already calculated that sales from the beer wagon were down $9,500 from last year’s $18,000. And the hot dog stand earned $3,000, as opposed to last year’s $7,000.

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“There’s a new phenomenon,” said Jacquie Richardson, the festival’s entertainment chair and past president of the Kiwanis. “It seems the crowds are going for the entertainment and activities, but this year there’s a noticeable drop of spending at the food and drink booths.”

One theory is that the annual fair’s move from a more remote hilly area closer to the busier streets of Simi Valley has drawn people out of the festival to local fast-food outlets and restaurants.

The organizers earlier this summer lost their spot on a 32-acre plot at 1st Street near the Ronald Reagan Freeway, because the site could not be graded in time. They opted for the temporary location on a six-acre spot near Tapo and Eileen streets.

Next year’s festival will be held on the 1st Street site.

“We were worried about finding a site, but once we determined where we could have it, we were all excited and actually it went really easy,” said Andy Macek, the fair’s committee chairperson.

While the money may be down, attendance is believed to have surpassed last year’s 29,600. The increase came despite the loss of the annual rodeo, which couldn’t be held on the smaller site. Final attendance figures will be tallied today, but event treasurer Marita Faulwell predicts the festival drew close to 30,000.

Money collected by the Simi Valley Days organization is used to cover the cost of maintaining the festival. Cash generated from venues--run by a handful of nonprofits in addition to Kiwanis of Simi Valley--go toward other nonprofit organizations.

Last year, the nonprofit groups distributed $60,800 from the festival to 54 nonprofit organizations and schools.

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