A Celebration of Art and Native Flora at Channel Islands National Park

Ventura, CA — As part of a continuing celebration of 100 years of national parks in 2016, the public is invited to enjoy a spring event in the native plant garden on April 9, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center in the Ventura Harbor.


This Find Your Park event features new displays of art sculptures, interpretive signs, and native plant interpretive guides, as well as a sale of Channel Islands native plants.


Internationally-renowned artist BiJian Fan designed the new orgami-style sculptures, which create an engaging environment in which visitors can explore some of the unique animals found on the Channel Islands. BiJian Fan, who has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, was born in Beijing, China, but now lives in Camarillo, where he combines science and art to form his unique sculptures.


The event will also feature botanical illustrations by artist Ellie Yun-Hui Tu, a local product designer and illustrator whose paintings of Channel Islands native plants were chosen for display at the “Flora of National Parks” exhibit in Washington, D.C.


Fan will present two talks about ways to connect people to parks through art and the inspiration he found in creating the garden wildlife sculptures at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. Yun-Hui Tu will share the secrets and steps in creating pen and ink botanical illustrations in a presentation at 2:00 pm. At 1:00 pm, there will be a ranger-led program on bird adaptations called Neat Beaks.


Children’s activities will take place throughout the day, including a native plant garden scavenger hunt, art rubbings of native plants, origami crafts, and a button-making station. Junior Ranger booklets and activities will also be available for children to complete, in order to earn their Junior Ranger badges.


The event is a great opportunity for California native plant lovers to find at least ten varieties of native plants unique to the Channel Islands at a plant sale from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. The sale is sponsored by the Channel Islands Park Foundation and supported by volunteers from the Ventura County Master Gardeners. Proceeds from the sale (cash or checks only) will support the garden.


 About Channel Islands Park Foundation


Formed in 2005, Channel Islands Park Foundation is the only non-profit, philanthropic partner of Channel Islands National Park.


Recognizing the challenges of managing the complex island ecosystems and richly diverse cultural resources, the Foundation is committed to the ongoing work of Channel Islands National Park. In cooperation with the National Park, the Foundation funds education, protection and preservation efforts. For more information visit ciparkfoundation.org


 About the NPS Centennial


For nearly 100 years national parks have protected the most significant places in America. They preserve our most outstanding scenery, wildlife, and habitat, and honor our most important historic events and people. The National Park Service (NPS) has a presence in every community in the United States. NPS manages and conserves 410 areas in the National Park System, more than 2,500 National Historic Landmarks, 7,500 Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance projects, and 42,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund projects.


This publication is available online at:



Mermaids Spotted at Ventura Harbor Village

Mermaid Spotted Relaxing on Dock at Ventura Harbor Village

Mermaids have been spotted seaside at Ventura Harbor Village in March. From nautical finds to coastal décor, fashion and artwork inspired by the sea, Ventura Harbor Village pays homage to the mermaid in all of us to celebrate seaside with March is Mermaid Madness! Mermaid Meet & Greet is Sunday, March 20 from 1-4 pm, complimented with plenty of fun activities. Mermaids, or sirens as they are commonly referred to, allude to the lure of the sea.

Sip on a Blue Mermaid Margarita or savor a Seafood Scramble at the Boatyard Café or homemade Seafood Crepes on special for month of March at Le Petit Café. For a sweet treat taste the Sea Monster Oreo Shake or Mermaid Dream Sundae at Coastal Cone Ice Cream this March,or mermaid-inspired spun cotton candy at Village Carousel & Arcade on weekends. Beautiful jewelry, coastal finds for kids and adults are found throughout the locally owned boutiques and galleries at Ventura Harbor Village.

March features various classes and art activities to participate in as well, such as Tina O’ Brien Gallery & Studio Mermaid Painting or Drawing Demo every Wednesday & Friday in March from Noon-2pm, and kids’ crafts. Visitors will be delighted with free gifts with purchase, bubbles, and the scenic beauty of the Ventura Harbor Village in March. For a listing of full details and to learn more, visit Venturaharborvillage.com with updates added regularly.

Springtime Egg-Citement

Bunnies Will Be Hopping This Easter at Ventura Harbor Village

Springtime Egg-Citement

Hop on over for family fun at Ventura Harbor’s Cottontail Day Festival, Saturday, March 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The annual event features face painting, pony rides, a petting zoo, hands-on arts and crafts, glitter tattoos, jumpies, tumbling fun with MyGym and live children’s entertainment. There is something for the entire family! Kids delight in a photo op with the Cottontail Bunny and families enjoy the $2 Egg Hunt held every 15-30 minutes.  Other must-do activities include a Village Scavenger Hunt, the Village Arcade & Carousel, pedal boats, ice cream and family-oriented vendor booths.  Planned are a variety of free children’s crafts provided by Harbor Village Gallery, Macaroni Kid, and Lakeshore Learning Store. Admission and parking are free. wwwVenturaHarborVillage.com. On Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 from noon to 3 p.m., the Harbor is Hopping – A great way to bring family together for Easter brunch or dinner is to dine by the boats at one of the variety of restaurants that offer great views of the water. Children can meet and take photos with the Easter bunny, ride the Village Carousel, or play in the arcade.  Live music can also be enjoyed.  Visit VenturaHarbor.com

Ventura’s Wednesday Morning Farmer’s Market: Get Your Smiles and Satsumas Here

by Ken McAlpine

It is a bright blue children’s story of a morning, an appropriate ceiling for the spread of vegetables here at the Wednesday morning Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market. Had Jackson Pollock done vegetables, here you have his canvas.

There are perhaps twenty pop up tents in the parking lot of the Pacific View Mall, each tent shading a direct marketing farmer. To be a vendor at this market, the Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association (heretofore known as VCCMFA to save us all time) requires that said vendor must “raise, catch, gather, grow or otherwise produce the product they sell.” From a consumer’s viewpoint, encouraging verbs all, although it also indicates that even selling produce is no longer a simple affair.

Unlike the marketers most of us know, the farmers’ employees (and sometimes the farmers themselves) sit on stools smiling amiably, or talk on their cell phones, or patiently answer customer questions. More than a few nosh on their product. If I owned Da Vall Date Gardens, it would go out of business.

“Something else, huh?” says the friendly gentleman who has just handed me a Medjool Date. “You’re not going to find anything softer or sweeter than that.” The handwritten sign in front of the Medjools says “rich, caramel meaty date.” For the first time I realize it is possible for marketers to undersell something.

I also realize, yet again, how woefully ignorant I am regarding our agricultural bounty here in Ventura County. Every day I see the geometric fields, often with workers bent double in what is surely back-wrenching labor. Sometimes I see the figures — in Ventura County our rich earth yields almost $2 billion in crops and livestock each year – but like most of us, I take this in, and then let it go. It’s a cornucopia of wide blue skies and fruits and vegetables, but it’s just home.

I don’t think I’m alone. I prefer to assume the high road and not point fingers, but I would guess there are still plenty of folks in my hometown who might — hypothetically speaking — stand beneath a pop up tent and stare Forrest Gump-like at a Romanesco Cauliflower as if it just fell to earth from another planet.

It looks like a lot of really small pine trees all bunched together, Momma.

But not one person at the Wednesday morning farmer’s market holds my ignorance against me, including my sister-in-law Pat who, after almost 30 years, knows well the depths of my ignorance on many fronts. Although she will hate me for writing this (she makes the Dalai Lama look immodest), Pat is quite expert in the matter of farmer’s markets and our local agricultural bounty, having, among many other things, helped bring local fruits and vegetables into our local school cafeterias.


After I haul my stupefied gaze away from the Romanesco Cauliflower (I’m telling you, it really is amazing looking. If you don’t know what it looks, Google it in private; our secret), Pat patiently explains how to pick out a good artichoke.

“It’s all about weight,” she says, rummaging through an artichoke pile of many shapes and sizes. “If it has a thick stem, it has a bigger heart. You want thick leaves too.” Pat hands one to me.  “Now this one seems really nice and heavy.”

It is like a club.

I put it in my bag (Neophyte tip #1: when shopping farmer’s markets, bring your own bag.) as if I was going to select it all along. I have eaten hundreds of artichokes in my life, but if it hadn’t been for Pat I would still be standing in front of that pile of artichokes now.

My modest sister-in-law leads me to the next booth, where she politely goes through another tutorial. All that’s missing is my stroller.

Regarding farmers markets and farmers’ produce, I am not alone in my ignorance. The VCCMFA currently runs two weekly certified markets in Ventura (Saturdays downtown at the city parking lot on the corner of Palm & Santa Clara streets and Wednesdays here in the parking lot of the Pacific View Mall). The Downtown market has been operating since 1986, the midtown market since 1989, but it seems they are still something of a secret.

“The hardest thing for us is just to get the word out,” Ben Dominguez tells me when I stop at the information booth.  “We still have people who live here and they show up and say, ‘We didn’t know there was a market here.’ This particular market has been held on Wednesday mornings for twenty years, but a lot of people still don’t know about it.”

Since most of you can’t come to the farmers’ market with Pat, if you are produce impaired the information booth is a fine place to start. Not only is the booth manned by friendly, non-judgmental folks like Ben, they have lots of useful information too. For some reason Ben gathered up all their handouts and gave them to me. So it is that I now know that pineapple, persimmons and lemons should not be refrigerated, and that avocados, peaches and nectarines should be allowed to ripen on the counter first and then be placed in the fridge (but not way in the back, where they eventually become something even Pat can’t identify). The information sheets also contained handy tips specific to produce (“If you have purchased something that is not quite ripe, place it in a paper bag with a ripe apple), as well as advice that seemed to me to extend beyond a farmer’s market borders (“Select your product carefully. Use all your senses.”). I also learned a few facts that might come in handy on a game show. For $10,000 dollars is “no spray” a legal term in the marketing of agriculture? (No.)

But informational brochures only convey information. You have to come to the farmers’ market to understand why you’ll be very glad you came.

Endless sampling aside — “Well, I will try another Chocolate Fuyu Persimmon, if I must.” — the Wednesday morning farmer’s market at the Pacific View Mall is a happy place. There are piles of colorful bounty, and retirees with walkers, and young mothers with strollers, and small children who have escaped said strollers and now have rings of various colors around their mouth.

There is also something soothingly pleasant that, at first, I can’t quite pin down. There are local chefs buying garlic and fresh vegetables for tonight’s dinner menu and farmers whose families have known each other for generations, and people smile and nod to each other and engage in easy conversation about kids and neighbors and local happenings as if they have no place better to be.

It reminds me of something, and eventually Ben reminds me what that is.

When I tell him the Satsuma Mandarins taste so much better here in the sunshine, he smiles.

“The most common comment we get from first timer shoppers is, ‘Oh. That’s what it tasted like when I was a kid.’”

This story was originally published on kcet.org

Ventura’s Ken McAlpine is the author of eight books. His website is www.kenmcalpine.com


Photo’s courtesy of Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association

Summer in Ventura Harbor Village is Still Going Strong

VENTURA’S NEW (& ONLY) WATERFRONT COFFEE HOUSE, newly renovated and open for summer – COFFEE DOCK & POST at the Ventura Harbor Village features coffee drinks, fresh fruit smoothies, plus a full café menu of delicious sandwiches and salads – open daily with stunning views of the Harbor at the patio tables or indoors.  Complimentary Wi-Fi and coastal gifts make this new coffee house and café a must visit this summer to fall in love with Ventura’s newest coffee house.

SUMMER FASHION & COASTAL ART MUST-HAVES! Barefoot Boutique and its new sister store, BlueWater Boutique, offer fresh new summer finds every week along with a large selection of coastal accessories and California wear. Beach Break Surf Shop and Casa de Regalos have summer and surf T’s, flip flops, and Ventura wear for the whole family. Need a swimsuit? Head to Ventura Swimwear, Ventura’s most popular swimsuit store, with loads of the summer’s hottest styles and sizes for the entire family!  Hats Unlimited has you covered from the sunrays in fashion with amazing selection of hats, lids and sunglasses.  Coastal finds continue at Harbor Village art galleries and artisan studios – Come see fine art photographer and digital artist, Bruce David McFarland’s featured show at Harbor Village Gallery in August entitled, “East Coast West Coast,” with images from California, New York, and Massachusetts. His stunning artwork includes traditional and altered photography; digital paintings and digital watercolors, as well as unique and intriguing multiple exposure compositions.

GET ON & IN THE WATER THIS SUMMER! Relax and get on the water this summer with your choice of water time activities from sport fishing to kayak rentals, to whale watching in the channel, to harbor wine and beer tasting cruises, Ventura Harbor offers a plethora of choices to spend time catching some rays.  World-class diving at the Channel Islands or pick up dive gear at Ventura Dive & Sport, hike and explore the magnificent Channel Islands National Park with excursions out of Ventura Harbor. Plus, visit Ventura’s Harbor Cove Beach for fun in the sun offering free parking. Rent pedal boats with the kids or jump on a paddleboard or stand up kayak to explore the harbor and see the seals. NEW jet ski rentals at Ventura Boat Rentals this summer.

DINE & SIP WATERFRONT! Delight in the summer bliss of sipping refreshing cocktails seaside, savoring seafood dishes, and discovering your new favorite waterfront cuisine in Ventura Harbor. From Happy Hours to live entertainment, from breakfast to start the summer day and to outdoor patio sunset dining for dinner, Ventura Harbor offers fifteen harbor restaurants to tantalize your culinary needs.  Come check out new menus, new restaurants & new cocktails this summer seaside at Ventura Harbor.

There’s lots more to see and do in The Village – Visit www.VenturaHarborVillage.com for more information.

A Full Complement of Water Sports, Shopping, Dining, Annual and Weekend Events, and Recreation Make Ventura Harbor Village an Appealing Getaway for Everyone