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Time for Pyrotechnics, Parties--and Policing

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Chefs and caterers began a New Year’s Eve countdown of their own at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Thursday, skewering 800 shish kebabs, rolling 3,000 Swedish meatballs and setting out 3,000 champagne flutes.

They were among the staffs putting the finishing touches on bashes countywide, from 2087 restaurant in Thousand Oaks to the Tower Club in Oxnard.

Meanwhile, Ventura County residents were airing out tuxedos and sparkly dresses, getting ready to bring in the year 2000 at midnight tonight. And law enforcement officials were preparing to saturate the streets, looking for out-of-control revelers.

Four events will take place at Seaside Park, including the Millennium Masquerade and a dance sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous. The night’s festivities will end with a midnight fireworks display that is expected to light up the sky for eight minutes.

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Elsewhere in the county, the Tower Club in Oxnard will hold an upscale affair featuring a six-course French dinner, a variety of wines, a comedian/magician and music from the Rik Howard Band.

Another black-tie and cocktail-dress celebration will take place at 2087, where a 10-piece band and a laser light show will entertain guests. The party will feature 10 bars serving up specialty drinks from various decades, from the Roaring ‘20s to the 1990s.

For the more casual party-goers, Nicholby’s Night Club in Ventura will feature local band Papa-Nata, and Ojai’s Deer Lodge will host a buffet dinner with music from Typhoid Mary.

However, police officers, who will be out in full force all day and throughout the night, expect the bulk of the partying--and the problems--will be at private homes.

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“We’ve tried to do as much intelligence as possible to get a feel for where the big parties are going to be,” said Eric Nishimoto, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department. “In case anything major happens, we have our special enforcement units, the SWAT team, canine units, staged in various areas all over the county, ready to go.”

Police will be roaming residential streets, waiting to squelch revelers who are too loud, too drunk or just generally too rambunctious. Celebrations that degenerate into drunken brawls are a major concern, authorities said.

Police are also going to be on the lookout for party-goers celebrating the midnight hour by shooting bullets into the night sky.

“Whatever goes up comes down,” Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez said. “And somebody is going to get hurt.”

Aside from watching for bullets, authorities also warn that they will be keeping a close eye out for people setting off illegal fireworks. Because Ventura County has had such a dry year, officials are worried about fireworks causing brush fires like the recent blaze in Ojai.

The National Weather Service forecasts sun this afternoon and low clouds and fog tonight. There is no rain expected. Lows will be in the 40s and highs in the 60s.

Although Millennium Masquerade organizers have sold far fewer tickets than expected, Ventura City Councilwoman Donna DePaola said she still expects a crowd of more than 600.

“Everybody is going to relax and have a good time,” she said. “It’s going to be fun and very safe.”

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The servers for all the fairgrounds events are going through training today so they know when to stop serving alcohol to overindulging patrons.

On Thursday, Seaside Park staff set up palm trees with silver leaves and an oversized “2000" sign. Servers rolled silverware in black napkins and made millennium toothpick decorations for the desserts. And the cooks prepared honey mustard and spinach herb dips.

“It’s going to be a long few days for us,” said Bob Miller, executive chef for Fanfare Enterprises. “But I’m not worried. This isn’t as hard as we thought it was going to be.”

Meanwhile, pyrotechnist Don Howard inventoried the explosives for the New Year’s Eve fireworks display. Surrounded by red “danger” tape, Howard counted the shells: 500 total.

During the fireworks display--which cost about $15,000--Howard plans to set off a shell every three seconds. Some will travel as high as 600 feet.

Howard expects that the crowd will be pleased. There will be about the same number of rounds set off in eight minutes as there are during nine days of the county fair, Seaside Park officials said.

“A lot of these shells look really cool, because they let out a big bang and spew out a comet-looking material,” he said. “The sky will be filled with light.”

More Party Options

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* Hyatt Westlake Plaza, 880 S. Westlake Blvd., Westlake Village, 557-1234, 9 p.m. Guests can choose from a variety of entertainment packages, ranging from dancing, hors d’oeuvres and champagne toast at midnight for $110 to a full dinner, room and champagne brunch the next morning for $1,000. Bands will play swing and Top 40 music.

* Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort, 2101 Mandalay Beach Road, Oxnard, 984-2500, 7 p.m. Guests can mingle at parties hosted at the Capistrano restaurant and two ballrooms. Music will vary from jazz to swing to a DJ playing pop music. Guests will enjoy a four-course dinner buffet with roast beef tenderloin, smoked salmon, chicken Wellington and stuffed sole with lobster. $75.

* Radisson Hotel, 999 Enchanted Way, Simi Valley, 583-2000, 6:30 p.m. A Mardi Gras-themed party will entertain 180 guests dressed in black tie and cocktail dresses, with a jazz and pop band playing through the early morning hours. A buffet dinner will be served, including such dishes as crab, lobster tail, prime rib and gourmet ravioli. Guests will get a bottle of champagne and souvenir champagne glass. $349-$449.

* The Deer Lodge, 2261 Maricopa Highway, Ojai, 646-4256, 7 p.m. An all-you-can-eat prime rib buffet dinner will be served from 7 to 9 p.m., followed by live music from Typhoid Mary playing a mix of rock ‘n’ roll tunes. A continental breakfast will be served at 1:30 a.m. Guests are asked to dress in suits or tuxedos and cocktail dresses. $30.

* Conejo Pops Orchestra, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., 449-2787, 8 p.m. The annual New Year’s Eve concert will feature soloists Lynn Youngren, soprano, and Chris Feeney, tenor. There will also be dance accompaniment. $18.50 to $51.50.

* “1776--The Great American Musical,” Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave., 581-9940, 8 p.m. After the show, audience members will join the actors for a late supper and champagne toast. On the Main Stage, a large movie screen will show CNN’s broadcast of how the new millennium is being celebrated around the world. $100.

* Vegas Lounge, Conejo Players Theatre, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks, 495-3715, 9 p.m. Presented will be “Atomic Millennium Lounge,” a Las Vegas-style event featuring live music, dancing and cabaret performances. $25.

* Jazz Mammals, 66 California, 66 California St., Ventura, 648-2266, 8:30 p.m. It is suggested that patrons arrive by 7:45. Free.

Improv, The Livery Theatre, 34 N. Palm St., Ventura, 643-5701. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8. The event will include improvisational theater, snacks and drinks, and will end early enough for those attending to carry on their celebrations elsewhere. $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

* Meditation Group of Ojai, Meditation Mount at the end of Reeves Road, Ojai, 646-5508. The group will hold meditations every hour beginning at 4 p.m. and running through midnight. Vegetarian chili with corn bread and refreshments will be available. Entrance and food are free.

* Senior Center Party, Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, 381-2744. The center will host its New Year’s Eve Millennium Dance 2000 from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. for adults age 50 and older, and will feature music by the Windsors.

* Beach Sculpture Contest, One World Today Institute for Peace and Justice, 981-0350. The institute presents a Peace Day 2000 sand sculpture contest from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Saturday at Hollywood Beach on Ocean Drive, Oxnard.


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