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• Saturday festival kicks off popular Christmas Tree Lane
Residents on Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street are busy readying their homes and yards for the annual spectacle of the celebrated Christmas Tree Lane. Paul Benge was setting up decorations - including inflating a snowman on a motorcycle - in front of his house a day before Thanksgiving.

Every year since 1961, Henry and Vaughn streets in Ceres have been transformed into a holiday wonderland of Christmas lights and sounds.

"I love doing this," said Benge. "It's a lot of fun."

Before he's done, Benge expects to drape 5,000 mini lights all over his house and yard, some which blink in synchronization with Christmas tunes piped outdoors. Inflatable holiday characters will add to the display.

"Between the penguins, the polar bear and the snowman, I should be good."

Visitors to Christmas Tree Lane will get their first stroll on Saturday evening during the 23rd annual Ceres Christmas Festival held in neighboring Smyrna Park. The festival gets underway from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and includes performances by local talent, free refreshments, pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Christmas crafts, letters to Santa, and carriage rides down Christmas Tree Lane.

For those who want to experience the lane more than once, the display is offered through until Christmas and some nights afterward.

To get to Christmas Tree Lane from Hatch Road, travel east from Highway 99 to Moffet Road and turn right. Those coming from the south can use Whitmore Avenue to Moffet Road. The lane will be closed to vehicular traffic Saturday evening only to accommodate pedestrian strollers.

Tree lighting at Whitmore Park

Ceres residents can get a jumpstart on the holiday festivities a day early. The Ceres Garden Club will present its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, in the Whitmore Park gazebo. The park is located in downtown Ceres at Third Street between North and El Camino. Santa and the Central Valley High School band will be there and refreshments will be served.