Going camping with the Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys practice drills at the River Ridge Complex in Oxnard. Photos by Stephen Dorman/TMT

Through Aug. 20, the Dallas Cowboys will hold training camp at the River Ridge Complex in Oxnard. Fans can watch practice for free, seek autographs from players and take part in a variety of other simulated-football activities.

By Stephen Dorman/ Special To The Malibu Times

It has long been speculated that the Dallas Cowboys left a large hole in the roof at Texas Stadium so that God could look down from above and watch his favorite team play football. While this novel hole-in-the-roof theory has never been clearly substantiated, one thing is certain: for the better part of this month football fans in the Southland won’t have to go anywhere near the Texas heat, or heaven for that matter, to see one of the National Football League’s most storied franchises toss the pigskin. Through Aug. 20, the Cowboys are holding their training camp at the River ridge Complex in Oxnard.

Last Thursday the Cowboys, know for decades as “America’s Team,” an organization that has played in eight Super Bowls-winning five-landed at Point Mugu’s Naval Air Station where, upon arrival, they took photos, signed autographs and conversed with hundreds of Navy personnel. A few hours later, the team checked into its training camp headquarters at the River Ridge Complex located adjacent to the Residence Inn in Oxnard. This football compound situated 30 minutes north of County Line is where the team will call home through Aug. 20.

“I want to express my appreciation to the people with the U.S. Air Force,” Cowboy owner Jerry Jones said. “That’s rare when you can have your team land and be greeted and be a part of a big operation, especially in these times, and we appreciate, obviously, with everyone else, and support those guys out there and appreciate them greeting us.”

When the team took the field for its first practice session Saturday morning, the players were greeted by throngs of adoring fans who were decked out in Cowboy jerseys, hats and just about anything emblazon with the Silver Star. Actor Kevin Costner was even on hand to visit with his old buddies, Jones and head coach Bill Parcells.

And it wasn’t just the locals who showed up to lend their support and seek autographs. Fans from all over Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange County-even a guy who drove all the way from Dallas-were there to watch practice and take part in a variety of activities generated for kids, such as a football obstacle course, field goal challenge and strength drills.

“It’s fun seeing everybody practice and do all that stuff,” 11-year-old Huntington Beach resident Timmy Root said. “The guys are just huge. I want to get a lot more autographs to go with the cheerleader’s autographs that I already got.”

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, arguably the most recognized squad in the world, were on hand for Saturday’s opening ceremonies as well. They will perform periodically throughout training camp and will host Camp DCC, a free cheer camp for girls and boys ages 4-17, on Aug. 13 and 14. Anyone interested in partaking in Camp DCC can fill out a registration form at the team’s official Web site, www.dallascowboys.com, or call 805.385.7995 for more information. The deadline to register is Aug. 10.

Training camp practices will alternate from once to twice per day every other day until camp concludes on Aug. 20. The only scheduled day off for players is Aug. 7. Visit the Cowboys’ official Web site for an up-to-date practice schedule.

The practice is free, although there is a $5 charge to park. The River Ridge Complex is located at 2101 West Vineyard Ave. in Oxnard.