Holiday Campers Venture Fourth


Independence Day may fall smack-dab in the middle of the week this year, but that didn't stop droves of revelers from setting out Tuesday for Fourth of July fun in Ventura County.

Many were planning to swim, surf, camp and party for several days, despite a less-than-ideal weather forecast.

"We're full, and they're bringing the dogs and the kitchen sink," said Wes Chapin, a spokesman for California State Parks, which handles more than 1,000 beachfront campsites in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

The National Weather Service in Oxnard was calling for partly cloudy skies and a 20% chance of rain today through Friday. Temperatures are expected to reach the high 70s along the coast and 100 degrees inland.

It was muggy and 79 degrees Tuesday in Ventura, 96 in Ojai, 93 in Thousand Oaks and 95 in Simi Valley.

California Highway Patrol officers were out in force as of 6 p.m. Tuesday and plan to stay that way until 6 a.m. Thursday, Officer Dave Webb said.

"We are anticipating moderate to heavy traffic due to the holiday, summer vacations and people having long weekends," Webb said.

Patrols will focus on drunk drivers and people not wearing seat belts. Vehicles with passengers not using seat belts will draw a $25 fine.

By early Tuesday afternoon, Acton resident Don Johnson had pulled his giant recreational vehicle into a prime camping spot at Rincon State Beach, where it will sit for the next five days.

"I'm looking forward to playing with all my toys," Johnson said as he unloaded a new motorcycle, three sea kayaks and four surfboards with help from his sons, Brandon, 20, and Donny, 12.

Coming to the beach north of Ventura has been a family tradition for years, Brandon said, because his father had surfed the Rincon's waters when he was a boy.

"He's been showing me and my brother what it's all about," Brandon said.

Lake Piru spokeswoman Traci Roberts said the park's 150 campsites were booked through the week.

"This is our biggest holiday, because sometimes the weather can put a damper on Memorial Day, and Labor Day is so close to when school starts," Roberts said.

Local residents, predictably, jammed grocery stores for charcoal, paper supplies and picnic foods and lined up at fireworks booths in Fillmore, the only city in the county where it is legal to possess and ignite them.

"This is our Christmas," said Stuart McDonald, manager of Barbeques Galore in Oxnard, which had sold dozens of units by lunchtime.

Grillers of varying expertise were cruising the aisles for utensils, patio equipment and barbecues.

"It's the California lifestyle," McDonald said.

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