2004-05-12 / Front Page

Family fun, but no fruit, at Apricot Festival

By Saria Kraft

By Saria Kraft kraft@theacorn.com

Teens turned out in solid numbers for the opening of the Moorpark Apricot Festival at Arroyo Vista Park. The Battle of the Bands saw two local victories last Friday night.

Moorpark bands Syngia and Midnight Overture placed second and third, respectively. Out of nine entries, the band Decoy won first place.

The second annual, city-sponsored fair offered more music than last year, said event coordinator Stephanie Shaw, Moorpark Community Services Department.

Saturday’s lineup of four concerts included The Booty Shakers, a disco band. On Sunday, five musical groups performed, including the Moorpark Boys & Girls Club Orchestra and the Walnut Canyon School string ensemble.

"We played ‘Ode to Joy,’" said Melissa Casim, 9, a Walnut Canyon student. "It was really fun to perform on Mother’s Day."

Bluegrass, Dixieland and Hawaiian tunes serenaded the expansive grounds. Pop hits from the ’50s though the ’80s were heard along the midway and aboard the carnival rides.

With ten food booths, festival-goers had a wide selection of snacks, ethnic faire and desserts from which to choose. About 65 vendors and exhibitors were ready for business on Saturday morning.

At noon, nine teams participated in the Fire Truck Pull. Sierra Towing of the Conejo and a Navy Seabees team proved the mighty winners. The Moorpark Police-sponsored event raised $1,700 to benefit DARE and Special Olympics programs in the county.

The Moorpark Moms Connection held the Apricot Bake-Off later that afternoon. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Sandra Thompson, Rotary President Dale Parvin and Miss Moorpark, Jamie Gruttemeyer, judged the event.

On Sunday, a few families strolled the grounds after celebrating a traditional Mother’s Day brunch.

"I think this place is for kids," said Madeline Lefkowitz, 7, of Agoura Hills. "I like the rides and the games a lot."

"I want to go on all the rides," said Claire Lukyn, 7, of Moorpark.

Lukyn and Lefkowitz might have had their faces painted and their arms adorned with temporary tattoos. They might have spent hours at the petting farm, hurled water balloons to their hearts’ delight and commanded miniature racecars to glory.

There were no lines.

Shaw estimated the total weekend attendance at 5,000 to 6,000 people. Food vendors, exhibitors and midway operators said otherwise.

On Sunday, La Salsa Verde faced an empty stretch of grass where vendors had pitched tents the day before. About 15 booths signed up to exhibit only on Saturday.

"Mother’s Day weekend is a bad date," said owner Shirley Cardoza of Redlands. "People want to have brunch and then they barbecue in the backyard, that’s all."

Cardoza said business was slow on Saturday and very poor on Sunday.

"I stayed in Simi Valley all weekend, " Cardoza said. "They don’t have a place to stay in Moorpark."

A midway operator from Upland said the carnival had done well in other venues.

"We get a big crowd in Riverside and Orange County," he said. "Nobody’s here, but I don’t mind. The mountains are pretty, and there’s a nice breeze."

Dr. Nicole Lopez, a chiropractor with offices in Camarillo, exhibited at the fair.

"I’ve lived here all my life," Lopez said. "People in Moorpark aren’t supporting Moorpark events. They don’t even shop here.

"(The festival) needed more advertising to get people to come," Lopez added. "Where are the banners, the balloons and the signs?"

But the biggest question at the event was, "Where are the apricots at the Apricot Festival?" A farm from San Juan Bautista offered apricot jam and dried fruit. On Sunday, there wasn’t a jar of jam or an apricot pie in sight.

Shaw said that signage will be increased next year, and that the festival is likely to be held in June, when the actual fruit is ripe and available.

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