The festival has raised more than $1.2 million for local charities over the years, he added. Started by the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise as a one-day clambake in the early 1990s, the event’s popularity exploded over the years after organizers adopted the Mardi Gras theme, turning the festival into Simi Valley’s biggest charity fundraiser. Randy Greene, the festival’s chairman, called the event a hometown tradition for him and thousands of others. “We’ll go over the $1.3 million mark this year with charity fundraising. That’s just huge,” he said. “That’s why I do it. I was born in Simi Valley. My passion is for my hometown.” The site has grown by 40 percent compared with last year, he said, and organizers expect more than 100 vendor and crafts booths. SIMI VALLEY – With its Mardi Gras parade, zydeco music and delicacies such as alligator on a stick, the Simi Valley Cajun and Creole Music Festival has evolved into one of Southern California’s more exotic Memorial Day weekend events. The event, which used to attract mostly adults, has turned into a family-oriented festival, with a new Cajun Kids area and children marching in the parade, throwing beads to spectators. This year’s event at the sprawling Rancho Santa Susana Community Park is expected to attract about 17,000 people to the city next weekend. “The people of Simi Valley are proud to have an event like this recognized around the nation as one of the top Cajun music festivals,” said Gary Stewart, president of the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, which sponsors the event. “We have people visiting us from all over the nation, including Louisiana.” At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, a Gator Run will be held at the park to raise money for the Ventura County Fire Department’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial Fund. Festival attractions both Saturday and Sunday include the Cajun Kids area with bounce houses, climbing walls, demonstrations of Frisbee-catching by the Purina Incredible Dog Team and demonstrations of crime-solving skills by the Simi Valley Police Department’s K-9 police dog unit. There is a children’s arts and craft center and dance instructors will be teaching kids how to do Cajun dancing. The festival benefits a variety of organizations, including the Simi Valley Boys & Girls Club, the Ventura County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the American Cancer Society, the Free Clinic of Simi Valley, the Association of Retarded Citizens, the YMCA of Simi Valley, the Samaritan Center of Simi Valley, the Simi Valley Friends of the Library, the Simi Valley Senior Center and the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. [email protected] (805) 583-7602 If you go The Cajun Creole Music Festival will be held at Rancho Santa Susana Community Park, 5005 Los Angeles Ave., at 11 a.m. both Saturday and next Sunday. The festival ends at 8 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Parking is available at the park, at the Metrolink train station across the street, and at Simi Valley High School, about a mile east of the park at 5400 Cochran St. Tickets are $15, with children 12 and younger admitted free. For more information, go to www.simicajun.org. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!