by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
One thing can be said about this pandemic: It has forced event organizers to get creative. From GhostWalk’s all-virtual GhostWatch to drive-in concerts and performances to custom designed treats, people across the county have set out to prove that there’s more than one way to party. Fear not, Ventura County: This weekend is full of fun activities in celebration of fall, Halloween and Día de Los Muertos.
The High Street Broadcast Audio Theater
The High Street Broadcast (HSB) has been bringing vintage-style radio shows to stage and airwaves since 2007. Original scripts performed by a troupe of actors, musicians and sound effect artists recreate the audio theater experience made popular during the “Golden Age” of radio, when thousands of riveted listeners tuned in for thrills, chills, laughs and entertainment.
While HSB has had to table its live stage productions in these pandemic times, the stories told through its podcast are ideal for enjoyment at home. Host and writer Ryan Neely has put together a selection of seasonal tales filled with Halloween spirit.
“Addison’s Library” features spooky stories and fairy tales as told from the “confines” of a secret library. A baleful hound prowls the hills of northeastern France in “The Devil Dog of Alsace-Lorraine” while a watchful scarecrow haunts the “Autumn Knoll.”
Some tales are best heard and not seen, allowing one’s own imagination to take flight. Gather the family ‘round, light some candles and partake in the oral tradition of ghostly storytelling with High Street Broadcast.
Underwood Family Farms Fall Harvest
Through Oct. 31; 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
3370 Sunset Valley Road, Moorpark
Underwood’s 50-acre pumpkin patch is a great place to pick out your jack-o-lantern — and there should be plenty of space for everyone to keep a safe distance. But that’s not the only thing to be enjoyed on the farm this Halloween.
There are lots of fun things to see (which make for great photo opportunities, too): fall harvest decor; giant spiders, tractors and harvest baskets; the delightful pumpkin house. Wagon rides will takes visitors out to the fields to pick seasonal produce. The Animal Center (baby goats and chicks, ponies, sheep and more) is open, but rides, petting and feeding are not allowed at this time. On weekends, roaming entertainers will delight audiences . . . from a distance, of course.
Even with COVID-19 closures of some of Underwood’s many attractions, there’s still a lot to do here — and you won’t find a better spot for experiencing Ventura County’s ag tradition during this most magical time of year.
A few safety guidelines: Masks are required for ages 3 and up during check in/out, in the animal center, on wagon rides and in the markets. Visitors must maintain a minimum of six feet physical distance from others. Underwood Family Farms states that this is equivalent to two rows in the pick-your-own fields or a horse length distance.
Friday Oct. 30, 4:30-6:30 p.m. (all ages) and 7-9 p.m. (13+)
Ojai Valley Inn
905 Country Club Road, Ojai
$20 per vehicle
This year, the Ojai Valley Inn’s harvest festival is really extra.
Extraterrestrial, that is.
It has transformed its usual festivities to a drive-in extravaganza that promises “close encounters of the fifth kind” from the comfort and safety of your car. If you’re tired of thrills and chills from beyond the grave, this UFO-inspired experience just may be for you. Will you see little green men? The Greys? Reptilians? Mulder and Scully? Start your engines to find out.
Two sessions are offered, to accommodate thrill seekers of all levels. From 4:30-6:30 p.m., expect “gentle scares” that should be suitable for children of all ages. The intensity increases 7-9 p.m.; these “big scares” are recommended for ages 13 and up. Tickets are available for each time slot and advanced registration is required. Face coverings must be worn.
1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura
Hit the harbor for some Halloween fun you won’t be able to find anywhere else! Ventura Harbor Village kicks its celebrations off on Friday, Oct. 30, with the Ride of the Ventura Harbor Witches, making their second annual paddle board tour starting at 3:30 p.m. Bring your own paddle board (or rent one from Ventura Boat Rentals) to join in the watery “flight.”
On Halloween day, Saturday, Oct. 31, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors of all ages (and their dogs!) are invited to stroll through the village in costume. Keep an eye out for skeletons strategically hidden around the area for a chance to win prizes. Remember to wear face coverings and keep your distance from fellow Halloween revelers!
Friday, Oct. 30, 5-8 p.m.
Harding Park parking lot on Harvard Boulevard, Santa Paula
Santa Paula’s traditional Halloween Carnival isn’t possible this year. Instead, the city has organized a drive-through experience to be enjoyed by all ages. The Harding Park parking lot next to the Boys and Girls Club will be transformed into a variety of bewitching scenes. Attendees can vote for their favorite scene and receive a free treat bag (while supplies last). As with most events this year, masks will be required and social distancing must be maintained.
Ghosts of the Past
Oct. 30-Nov. 1
La Dolce Vita 1901
740 S. B St., Oxnard
If fine dining puts you in high spirits, make reservations now for Ghosts of the Past at La Dolce Vita 1901. The Italian restaurant in Oxnard’s historic Heritage Square is offering an outdoor, socially distanced, immersive dining and haunt experience that should be terrifyingly tasty.
The evening begins with a gourmet three-course meal (seatings at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.) courtesy of La Dolce Vita 1901, along with themed cocktails and an immersive cabaret and show. Afterwards, diners take a walking tour through “haunted” Heritage Square.
The production values are top notch. Presented by theatrical event company Witches Brew Los Angeles, Ghosts of the Past will “unlock the dark past of one of Southern California’s most haunted and historic locations.” It will feature a live theatrical performance written and co-produced by Zachariah the Witch as well as a “haunting” realized by Murder House Productions, based in Thousand Oaks and specializing in walk-though haunted houses with live actors and storytelling. Prepare to be both unsettled and impressed.
Tickets start at $79.99 for dinner and the haunt experience. The Memento Mori Package includes a VIP gift bag; VIP tickets include preferred seating, an “exclusive” gift bag and the opportunity to take part in an after-hours exclusive experience.
Halloween with Grandpa
Every Now and Then Theatre
Every Now and Then Theatre in conjunction with Conejo Players Theatre presents this commercial-free radio broadcast, hosted by KVTA personality Tom Spence, which takes listeners on a journey through six tales told by local actors — a mix of seasoned veterans and talented newcomers. On tap for the show are “They’re Here,” “Worldwide Wives Conspiracy,” “Headless Pumpkin,” “Careful What You Wish For,” “Haunted House” and “Nosey Neighbor’s Computer.”
“It’s our free treat. No travel, no dress code,” says Spence. “Get your snacks and relax. We’ll provide the radio theatre imagination for your ears! Remember to tune in early for best seats!”
PumpkinLiner and Fright Night Dinner Train
Saturday, Oct. 31, 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (PumpkinLiner; all ages); 6 p.m. (Fright Night; 18+)
Fillmore and Western Railway
364 Main St., Fillmore
The bad news: There’s no Zombie Hunter Train this year.
But fear not, railroad enthusiasts! The Fillmore and Western is on track for a great Halloween 2020.
The ever-popular PumpkinLiner is running trips (passengers will be socially distanced) to two locations for autumn-flavored fun. Passengers can choose the stop they prefer. One option is the Loose Caboose (free with train ticket), a garden center and gift shop offering pumpkins and other local produce, honey, nuts and more. Animals on site include koi, chickens and quail. The other stop is Prancer’s Farm ($7 entry fee with discounts for train ticket holders) featuring a 10-acre pumpkin patch, farm animals, a barrel train, hay pyramid and more. Whichever location you choose, you’ll have about an hour to enjoy it. PumpkinLiner trips last a total of 2.5 hours; facial coverings and social distancing are mandatory. Food and beverages will be available for purchase on the train.
On the evening of Oct. 31, the railway has organized an eerily enjoyable Fright Night. This Halloween-themed mystery train experience starts with a ride to Loose Caboose, a boxed barbecue dinner served outside and a spooky (but safe!) murder mystery “game” involving monsters, murder and mayhem. It is rumored to be equal parts silly and scary, so prepare to be wildly entertained. The entire event lasts about 3.5 hours. As with the PumpkinLiner, masks and social distancing will be mandatory.
Trick or Trash Beach Clean Up
Saturday, Oct. 31, 10-11:30 a.m.
The Cove on C Street
Before Halloween festivities begin in earnest, help make C Street cleaner, tidier and a little more boo-tiful.
C-Street Surf Shop (in conjunction with Silicon Beach Social in Playa del Rey) is hosting a Trick or Trash Beach Clean Up the morning of Saturday, Oct. 31. Participants will meet at the cove on the beach near California Street in Ventura (aka C Street) at 10 a.m., don the provided gloves and trash bags and spread out on the sand to pick up anything that shouldn’t be there. To keep it safe, all participants must wear a mask (not the costume kind!) and practice social distancing.
Treat the beach to a little community service before the ghosts and goblins come out to play!
Drive-Thru Trick or Treating
Saturday, Oct. 31, 2-6 p.m.
981 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura
2101 E. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks
The Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association in partnership with Cumulus Media, Mike Wing, Arturo Montalvo, the Mark Klein Team at PCLF Financial Group and Unity to Spark Change have united forces to bring the community a COVID-safe, fun and free trick-or-treating experience to be enjoyed from the safety of a vehicle.
Trick or treating will be held in two locations — the parking lots of the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association on Victoria Ave. in Ventura and the Thousand Oaks Police Department on Olsen Road — in the afternoon on Halloween day. Bags of candy will be handed out to attendees remaining in their cars.
There is no charge to participate, but attendees must stay in their cars in order to receive candy.
“Our goal is to show the community that law enforcement is working with community members to bring the understanding that just because it is a different type of celebration this year, it should still be a fun time for all,” said Nick Odenath, president of the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association.
Drive-Thru Trick-or-Treat Village
Saturday, Oct. 31, 5-8 p.m.
Camarillo Community Center Parking Lot
1605 Burnley St., Camarillo
Skip door-to-door candy solicitations and enjoy drive-through trick-or-treating instead. The Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District has modified its popular Halloween in the Park celebration, moving it to the parking lot of the Camarillo Community Center, which will be decked out with lights and other seasonal decor to create a Trick-or-Treat Village. PVRPD staff — wearing personal protective equipment —will hand out candy to those driving through the “chute.” It’s a festive and low-risk opportunity for some Halloween fun.
There is no cost to come to the village, but note that this is strictly a drive-through event. Walk-ups will not be accommodated; attendees will only be served if they proceed through it by car. Face masks are required when going through the line and interacting with staff.
Tarrytown Tales Live Halloween Reading
Saturday, Oct. 31, 5-8 p.m.
Presented by Simi Valley Virtual Arts Center
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Spector Bridegroom and Rip Van Winkle all rolled into one piece of storybook theater. Author Sean Harrington adapted these Washington Irving works into Tarrytown Tales, narrated by 10 actors who portray a variety of characters. He has maintained Irving’s eloquence while making the stories accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages.
Tarrytown Tales will be read live on Halloween night through Facebook Live. If you want to read along, the Kindle edition of the script is available through Amazon (www.amazon.com/Tarrytown-Tales-Sean-P-Harrington/dp/1520896360). Both the production and the script (through Oct. 31) are absolutely free.
Día de Los Muertos Celebration, Drive-In Edition
Sunday, Nov. 1, 5-9 p.m.
Oxnard Performings Arts Center parking lot
800 Hobson Way, Oxnard
Art and music, fun and festivities, even a film — the Oxnard Performing Arts Center Corporation (OPAC) is going all-out this year for Día de Los Muertos, and the socially distanced, drive-in event hasn’t dampened spirits one bit.
The community is invited to attend this free, family-friendly outdoor evening of art, entertainment and remembrance in the OPAC parking lot. There will be dance performances by Club Flor Bonita, Grupo Folklorico Fusion Mexicana and Ballet Folklorico Mestizo, live music, altars on display, artisan vendors and regional cuisine for purchase. Capture the moment with a no-touch photo booth featuring characters from the animated feature Coco — which will be screened during the event as well.
Attendees can enjoy all of the entertainment from their cars, or bring chairs to sit on near their vehicles. In addition, every car will receive a swag bag with art activities (while supplies last).
Space has been made at OPAC for altars, open to anyone: families, individuals, businesses and nonprofits. Reservations are required; visit www.oxnardperformingarts.com/diacutea-de-los-muertos-day-of-the-dead.html to reserve altar space.
“COVID-19 has altered everyday lives — how we work, play, relax and celebrate,” said Carolyn Merino Mullin, OPAC executive director. “Destinations for arts and culture have shuttered, from movie theaters to museums . . . But artists and cultural organizations are resilient. They find a way to make and share art . . . and to bring our community together during the most challenging of times.”
Come together for Día de Los Muertos at OPAC, and partake in that collective joy, celebration and camaraderie.