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Visit Fillmore and Santa Paula while riding on vintage “movie trains!”

Fillmore & Western’s mission is to preserve and offer a unique part of American heritage. Photo by Nicholas Martinez

Fillmore & Western Railway has announced two new train excursions this summer.  Enjoy the “Hot August Nights – Beer, Wine & Blues Train” departing from Fillmore’s Train Depot.  Then on Labor Day weekend enjoy Fillmore & Western’s “Return to Santa Paula” with 1-hour antique steam engine train rides, for the first time, out of Santa Paula’s historic train depot.

Hot August Nights is an exciting new train that offers beer tasting from Santa Clarita’s Wolf Creek Brewery and wine + hard cider tasting from Reyes Winery. Appetizers are available for pairing and can be purchased while onboard.  Passengers also have the opportunity to dance & mingle on beautifully lit outdoor flatcars while a live band performs into the night.  The last chance to try this popular new excursion is on Aug 24th & 25th.

Return to Santa Paula is a celebration of Fillmore & Western’s arrival back at Santa Paula’s historic 1887 Southern Pacific Railroad Depot after over a year. Thanks to the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce the railroad will be open for business at the Santa Paula Depot and are running one hour train rides with their 1913 2-8-0 Consolidation steam engine built by Baldwin Locomotive Works.  1-hour rides will be offered 3 times a day on Sept 1st & 2nd from the Santa Paula Depot.  On Sept 3rd a special vintage diesel train ride will depart from Fillmore at 8:30 am and head to Santa Paula for passengers to see their traditional Labor Day Parade or visit the Ventura County Agricultural Museum Tractor Festival.

Marketing Director & Webmaster, Josh Carsman shared that “Fillmore & Western’s mission is to preserve and offer a unique part of American heritage for all generations to enjoy. So many train adventures to choose from all year long. Its step back in time riding on vintage passenger and dining cars through the scenic Santa Clara River Valley (aka Heritage Valley).  Not more then 30 – 40 minutes from Ventura on Hwy 126.”

Visit fwry.com for information or call 805-524-2546

Well-known restaurant owner dies

A nice memorial has been set-up outside the site of the restaurant.

Chingchai “Chang” Liampetchakul, former owner of Tipps Thai Cuisine has passed on at age 60.

Chang’s life has taken a turn for the worse the last several years.

In Feb., 2017 Chang Liampetchakul suffered a stroke while at the restaurant. He was cooking up some ribs for Super Bowl, when some friends came to pick him up. When they arrived he crawled to the front door to unlock it. Tipps was one of Ventura County’s first Thai restaurants when it opened at 512 E. Main St.

After his stroke Tipps restaurant closed its doors after serving Thai food to Ventura locals and visitors since 1983. The lovable Chang was a kind and generous person, often providing trays of food to families in need and always ready with a great yarn.

In April, 2017 a fire erupted in the two story portion of the building on Main St. which housed Tipps on the ground floor and the Odd Fellows on the top floor.

Ventura Fire and Ventura Police investigated and found evidence that pointed to Liampetchakul as having started the fire. On May 10, 2017, Liampetchakul was arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the fire. A motive was never determined. His case was still pending.

Funeral services will take place at 1 p.m. Aug. 18 at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Vietnam Memorial Hosted at Ventura County Government Center

Vietnam vet Bruce Lockhart points out names of 3 of his friends.

by Richard Lieberman

A half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. was setup next to the Ventura County Government Center at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Telephone Road in Ventura. The replica wall was illuminated at night and the wall was available to all visitors around the clock.

The replica wall has visited Ventura County seven times in the past 33 years. This past July marked the third time it has been hosted at the Ventura County Government Center.

Joseph Richardson, a founding member of the Vietnam Vets of Ventura County invited the public to “Come, Honor, Remember and Respect” he said. Richardson started his work with the replica monument in 1985 during its first visit to Ventura. “One of the things we really tried this year we took the Department of Defense listing of 111 casualties from Ventura, we created a brochure with their names on it, by city, alphabetical and by town, so there are 72 panels that have Ventura County casualties and their name and line number right there on the wall” added Richardson. Drafted into the Marine Corps in 1966 Richardson served 18 months in Vietnam.

VEP announces availability of $100,000 in grants for VUSD classrooms

Students learning at the farm.

Over the past 10 years, Ventura Education Partnership (VEP) has given over one million dollars to provide small grants to Ventura Unified School District teachers that make a big impact on learning. VEPGrants have touched every child in VUSD, and have a long-lasting impact on learning by incentivizing innovation in the classroom and incubating new programs district-wide.

Madhu Bajaj, President of the all-volunteer Ventura Education Partnership believes “VEPGrants is a powerful way for the community to support teachers and students because of the impact on increased student engagement and learning. Our teachers are amazingly resourceful. They bring innovation to their classroom on very limited budgets.”

“It is an honor and privilege for Ventura Education Partnership to serve the Ventura Unified School District community by offering VEPGrants. And, it’s exciting to share that this fall we will give over $100,000 in grants for the 2018/19 school year thanks to generous community members and businesses who support our youth, teachers and schools,” Bajaj said. Mountains 2 Beach Marathon, Aera Energy, Community Memorial Healthy System, MJP Technologies, Rotary Club of Ventura and many others make VEPGrants possible.

Recent Grant Recipient and VUSD Farm to School Operations Specialist, Chris Massa said of his grant, “The grant I received was literally the ‘seed’ money that allowed me to grow my program. It allowed me to buy tools, fruit trees, and seeds for my school farm.”

Cabrillo Middle School Principal, Lorelle Dawes shared that “my VEPGrant allowed me to work with our students and renowned artist M.B. Hanrahan to create a mural that will enhance our entire school. It’s been a beautiful process, and I am incredibly grateful to VEP for their support!”

Monica Lukins, Teacher at De Anza Middle School said “VEPGrants equipped me with necessary supplies that allow me to make history come alive in my classroom—from reenacting the Renaissance, traveling the trans-Saharan trade routes, and replicating Chinese inventions. ”

David Creswell, Superintendent, Ventura Unified School District said “Ventura Education Partnership (VEP) does so much to support education, encourage innovation and enrich the lives of literally all of our students. They are a catalyst for pulling us all together. VEP continues to make a huge impact on our schools and community, and I believe that this impact cannot be underestimated.”

For application information or to support VEPGrants with a donation visit www.venturaeducationpartnership.org or contact Madhu Bajaj (805) 754-9861.

Warped Tour gives back to Ventura via River Beautification Project

“They cleared out 8 tons of garbage”

by Adrienne Stephens

After twenty-four years of bringing punk and alternative bands plus thousands of enthusiastic music fans to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, the Warped Tour wrapped up its final stop in Ventura by undertaking a huge community service project working in collaboration with the Ventura Land Trust, the California State Parks and the City of Ventura in restoration efforts at the Ventura River estuary.

On Monday, June 25, the day after their final Ventura County concert, more than 250 musicians, roadies, vendors and community partners joined staff and volunteers from Ventura Land Trust and the City of Ventura to clear trash and invasive plants from the Ventura River estuary.

Matt LaVere, Deputy Mayor, helped to put the plan in place. “When I first met Kevin Lyman, founder of the Warped Tour, we were working together to produce last February’s Thomas Fire Benefit Concert,” said LaVere. “He told me that Ventura has always held a special place in his heart and very generously offered the services of the Warped Tour bands and crew members to help us clean up the beach and Ventura River bottom.”

Giving back to the communities and charities along the tour has been central to the Warped Tour’s mission since the very beginning. Twenty-five cents of every ticket sold goes to charity, nonprofits line the festival grounds, and in select cities, Warped Tour employees gather together to provide community service manpower. This year’s Ventura River restoration project, the 12th “Give Back Day” in the festival’s history, was a way for the Warped Tour to lend a helping hand after the Thomas Fire.

“It’s amazing what a difference the Warped Tour crew made for the environment in just one morning,” said Kate Furlong, Ventura Land Trust Stewardship Manager. “They cleared out 8 tons of garbage that would have otherwise ended up in the Ventura River and eventually in the Pacific Ocean.”

Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman helped kickoff the festivities by thanking his volunteers, reminding them that the hills behind Ventura had been black just six months ago and encouraging them to “pay it forward” to the city by visiting the pier, local restaurants and shopping in the downtown that “even includes a record store.” The small army of volunteers donned gloves and shovels and traversed the beach to Emma Wood State Park where they proceeded to collect and haul out hundreds of bags filled with trash. In a second location, they cleared invasive bamboo-like Arundo donax plants that invade wetlands, degrade wildlife habitat and increase fire risk.

STEMbassador Kids Kick off STEM Workshop Series with Ventura teachers

Teachers, STEMbassadors students and Alex Wulff love what they are doing.

Beginning Monday, June 18, 2018 STEMbassadors taught a 3-day workshop to train 16 teachers from several Ventura County schools ( De Anza Academy of Technology and the Arts (DATA), Junipero Serra elementary school, Rio and Elmhurst elementary, along with Oxnard elementary school ) in the use of their CNC router “spark carts.”

The spark carts were designed and constructed by the STEMbassadors and include mobile CNC routers, laptops, dust collection, and materials.  This workshop was taught by the STEMbassadors crew, comprised of eight Ventura students in grades 8th-10th and led by their STEM elective teacher, Alex Wulff, from DATA.

The teachers attending the training workshop were instructed on safety, operation and trouble-shooting of the CNC mills, and guided through a number of standards and project-based classroom lessons.  Teachers will use these lessons to teach Ventura County elementary and middle schoolers about STEM technologies, such as CAD skills, in a fun and hands-on way. Now that the teachers have received the necessary training, STEMbassadors will donate one spark cart (each valued at $5000) to each of the participating schools, which will be used in classrooms during the 2018/19 school year.

STEMbassadors is a Ventura, non-profit company comprised of 8 highly motivated high school and middle school students who are having a direct impact on STEM education in K-12 classrooms in Ventura County.  The company was recently awarded 1st place in the Ventura County New Venture Challenge and was featured on KCLU radio in a piece by Lance Orozco on June 19, 2018.

STEMbassadors’ mission is to enhance the education of K-12 students by providing and engaging them with applied, state-of-the-art STEM materials, curriculum and skills, and to create opportunities for them to share their acquired knowledge with others.

Student interest and expertise in highly desirable STEM skills and technologies often outpaces the rate at which these technologies and skills are integrated into our public-school system. Teacher credential programs, and most undergraduate programs, lack suitable training for teachers on how to integrate and maintain STEM technologies within a classroom setting. The vast majority of students receive either limited or no exposure to highly engaging and relevant tools. The few students who are fortunate enough to receive exposure to applied STEM technologies find their skill sets evaporating as they progress through the school system, since they have limited opportunities to apply and expand their knowledge and expertise.

For further information contact: Alex Wulff: alex.wulff@venturausd.org or (805)746-2960.

Ventura angel store closing- Over 34,000 prayers need a home

Do you have space for 34,000 prayers?

For nearly a quarter of a century Heaven’s Gallery has been a destination store for people vising downtown Ventura. According to store owners Keith and Francesca Richardson the store is now scheduled to close September 30, 2018.

One of the main features of the Richardson’s store has been its prayer wall. Started by accident in 1995, the prayers now encompass the store’s original display case at the back of the store and has been gradually creeping towards the front of the store for nearly 24 years.

The prayers on the wall come from people from all faiths and all walks of life.

According to the Richardson’s, the most commonly answered prayer in recent years has been for women told by their doctors that they cannot have children.

Heaven’s Gallery and its prayer wall have been featured in numerous news stories including: ABC’s “Good Morning America,” KCBS News, TNN’s “The Life and Times of Angel Encounters” and Fox Televisions “Miracles in the Making.”

Keith has published five books in three languages (English, Portuguese and Japanese). These books have sold thousands of copies and have brought numerous visitors from all over the world to Ventura to see Heaven’s Gallery.

Keith and Francesca have decided to close their store due to recent economy changes which favor large online merchants over small business retailers.

Keith and Francesca now plan to retire. Their only concern is for the fate of the more than 34,000 prayers on the walls of their store.
Heaven’s Gallery 365 E. Main St.(805) 648-5689

Couple kick-scooting to help build a school in Africa

Bex and Gil stopped in Ventura on the way to Tijuana.

UK based couple, Bex Band and Gil Dori, will be bravely attempting a 1500+ mile journey travelling the full length of the USA west coast using kick scooters – stand up non-motorized scooters that are powered by leg muscles alone. The expedition, named ‘Kicking the States’ began on May 17 in Vancouver, Canada and will end 3 months later in Tijuana, Mexico. This route has never been attempted on kick scooters before so it will be a world first!

The couple are completely self-contained, carrying all their own gear in modified panniers that they adapted especially for the kick-scooters.

Band and Drori are no strangers to adventure. They both keep adventure blogs and have enjoyed getting outdoors the last couple of years, finding challenges that test them to their limits. Previously they have hiked the length of Israel, sailed across the North Sea and kayaked the width of the UK, but this will be their biggest adventure yet. They hope to inspire others to go on like changing adventures of their own.

Drori says, “We decided to do this journey on kick-scooters because it is the most fun way to travel. It allows us to really see the places we pass and is great for meeting people along the way. When people see the scooters, they want a go too!”

Band is looking forward to the journey ahead, “I’m nervous about this expedition because it has never been done before and I know it is going to be tough reaching the long distances we need to cover each day. We don’t know where we will be sleeping each night and some days will be reliant on kind strangers allowing us to camp in their years. Mostly though I’m just excited about the people we will meet along.”

Band adds, “When we tell people what we are planning, the first thing they ask is ‘are you going to use just one leg?’……We will be switching legs!”

The aim of this expedition is to raise money for Africa’s Children in Education who support some of Africa’s poorest children through school. Band, who used to be a teacher says, “We visited East Africa last year and since then have wanted to do something to give back as we feel we are so fortunate in many ways. We met many children living in extreme poverty and we believe that Education is key to them being able to change their circumstances. Our hope is to raise $10,000 which will go towards building a school which will help hundreds of children for years to come ”.

The couple will be giving free talks along the way in exchange for donations. People can follow or sponsor the couple at www.kickingthestates.com.

City of Ventura lifts temporary Leaf Blower Emergency Ordinance

“May I come out of the closet now?”

The Ventura City Council terminated the temporary leaf blower emergency ordinance during its regular meeting on July 9, 2018. The repeal is effective immediately and the use of gas, electric, and battery powered leaf blowers in the City of Ventura is allowed.

The temporary leaf blower emergency ordinance was adopted by the Ventura City Council on December 18, 2017, shortly after the start of the Thomas Fire. During this time, air quality in the City of Ventura deteriorated and became a potential health issue. The use of leaf blowers allows for debris such as fallen ash and soot to be airborne. The City Council declared both a state of local emergency and a local public health emergency due to the Thomas Fire.

For information on the Thomas Fire Rebuild, visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/thomasfirerebuild.

25th Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival—A Weekend of Sizzling Music, Dance & Food

The festival is a celebration of all things salsa.

Hot Latin sounds, exotic dancing and spicy culinary flavors are all part of the 25th Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival. The festival, July 28 and 29, is a celebration of all things salsa–the food, music and dance. Festivities take place at Plaza Park, Fifth and “B” streets in historic downtown Oxnard from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. both days.

Festivalgoers can dance to the beat of Latin bands including Janeen Puente, and her orchestra who are performing on Saturday at 4:45 p.m. Puente has a strong southern California following. Closing out Sunday’s lineup is Orquesta Tabaco Y Ron. Performing at 4:45 p.m., this 12-piece “Big-Band” orches­tra is composed of musicians from all over Latin America.

The festival’s salsa-tasting tent is filled with dozens of samples of salsa and hot sauce from local restaurants and gourmet grocers. Admission to the tent is $5 per person and includes a bag of fresh Mission tortilla chips and 10 tasting tickets.

The two days also feature a vendor marketplace, international cuisine, community stage, a kids’ zone and the annual “Dancing With Our Community Stars” contest to raise money for local charities.

This year’s Friday Night Kick Off Concert, July 27, features Poncho Sanchez and his fiery stew of infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. The concert is also at Plaza Park. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. with the concert from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. As part of the 25th festival celebration, general admission is free. Bring your own food. Beer and wine margaritas will be available.

The festival is presented by the Oxnard Downtowners and sponsored by Bud Light, Gold Coast Broadcasting, Mission Foods, Oxnard Convention & Visitors Bureau and other community partners. Festival proceeds go back into downtown Oxnard and to help pay for events including the Oxnard Farmers Market and Oxnard Christmas Parade.

About 40,000 people attend the festival each year. Festival admission and parking are free. Main stage seating is just $5. For festival information, call 805‐535‐4060, email info@oxnardsalsafestival.com or visit www.oxnardsalsafestival.com or on Facebook.