In 1956, a group of families, friends and community members came together to hold a festival called Conejo Valley Days. It was a chance to honor the Chumash, a Native American people who inhabited the Thousand Oaks area for around 10,000 years, the community and all the ranchers who populated the territory.
Many of these local ranchers raised animals mainly for the movie industry, explains Frank Akrey, the president and event coordinator of Conejo Valley Days whose family was one of its founders. A lot of the animals seen on television back then, including Leo the Lion (the mascot for the film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), lived on these ranches.
Now in its 66th year, Conejo Valley Days is a beloved community tradition. The annual five-day event continues to focus on celebrating the area’s diverse heritage and volunteer spirit while supporting local nonprofits by providing a venue to fundraise for the many services they provide to the community.
Proceeds, says Frank, go to many area nonprofits like Teen Challenge of Southern California, which helps teens suffering from opiate addiction and homelessness; the Ventura County Medical Explorers, which gives youths insight into the different fields of Emergency Medical Services; and the Ventura Police Explorers Program, which is designed to give high schoolers the opportunity to learn firsthand the challenges, duties and responsibilities of a police officer and gain a better understanding of the law enforcement profession. Other recipients include Boy Scout troops, churches, Families of Fallen Firefighters, the United Way, Parent-Teacher Associations, Rotary Clubs and many more.
These and other nonprofit groups and school organizations use the event as their primary annual fundraiser. They help organize and promote the event, oversee the food stands and ticket booths, and help with trash cleanup.
“We basically raise money and commerce for everybody in town, from the Fire Department and the Police Department to the Conejo Valley Park and Recreation Department,” says Frank.
The county fair-sized carnival features fun rides, food, vendors, first-class entertainment and more.
“We have a complete food court celebrating our local cuisine, which is basically Tri-Tip Chile, beans and other ranch goodies. We also have beer and wine for the grownups,” he says. In addition, there will be Western-attired exhibitors and vendors selling unique merchandise, plus arts and crafts booths and carnival games.
As always, expect thrilling rides for kids and adults like the Tornado and Orient Express, plus a carousel and teacups ride. Kids can earn free ride tickets through the Read & Ride literacy program open to children from kindergarten through eighth grade who read three books approved by parents or teachers and write a summary about each one. They can bring a completed and signed form to the carnival and receive three free tickets.
Live music is also a big part of Conejo Valley Days and something attendees look forward to every year. Past entertainment has included Edgar Winter, the Gregg Rollie Band, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, Foghat, and Ambrosia. This year, says Frank, they’re looking forward to an equally wonderful lineup of artists.
Conejo Valley Days entertains about 26,000 visitors each year during its five-day run. It’s a great time for the whole family, and of course, many sponsors are needed to keep this tradition going.
“It all started in 1956, which is the year I was born, so I’ve always felt very connected to it,” says Frank. “I plan on being its president for the 100th year, so I have 34 more years to go. I love doing it, and I think I'll make it—I'll be 100 years old then too!”
Enjoy Conejo Valley Days at Conejo Creek Park, 1300 Janss Road, from June 16th through 26th and support the local community and those organizations that make it great. While there, eat some delicious food, listen to amazing live music, buy a few unique items and don’t forget to hop on a few rides!
For more information, visit ConejoValleyDays.US.