By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
800 enjoy Ceres Christmas festival
An estimated 800 Ceres residents were getting into the holiday spirit at the annual Ceres Christmas Festival held Saturday evening, Dec. 8.

For many, getting into the Christmas swing of things meant watching a host of community youth groups performed to holiday tunes under the Smyrna Park shelter. To others it was getting in a photo op with Santa and Mrs. Claus. To others, sipping on hot cocoa and conversing with neighbors. But all felt pure Christmas as they strolled Christmas Tree Lane where dazzling Christmas lights and decorations are displayed.

The cold and foggy event was the official kickoff for the opening of Ceres' greatest holiday tradition. Residents of Henry and Vaughn streets have been going all out with Christmas decorations since 1961. On Saturday the streets were closed down to vehicular traffic for unimpeded pedestrian strolls down the lane.

Many homeowners laughed and chatted around small warming fires as horse-drawn trolley rides supplied by Shane Parson of Diamond Bar Arena moved down the lane to the sound of clopping hooves.

At Smyrna Park, a long line of parents holding children or pushing strollers formed for the first tent where Santa and Mrs. Claus posed for photos. Vice Mayor Ken Lane and wife Yvette portrayed the famous North Pole. A total of 197 children got to pose with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The city charged $2 per Polaroid photo, or waived the cost in exchange for a can of food. Enough food was contributed to fill three small containers. Other parents opted to take their own photos with digital cameras.

The night included a touching public thank you to Del Davis who was honored for having played Santa at the event for eight years. Del stepped down because he lost his wife, Shirley Davis, who played Mrs. Claus alongside him at each occasion. Front row seats were saved for Davis and his family.

Under shelter, Councilman Bret Durossette emceed the festivities as hundreds watched nine local groups perform holiday dance routine and martial arts demonstrations. Students from both Mae Hensley and Blaker Kinser, Cesar Chavez junior high schools, and Ceres and Central Valley high schools performed as did those from Footnotes and Steps Arts Center dance studios and Edwards Black Belt Academy. Many of the youngsters who performed are participants of the city's recreation program.

All 400 chairs set up under the shelter were taken with throngs of people standing behind them and throughout the parking lot.

Recreation coordinator Traci Farris estimated that there were at least 800 in attendance.

"I think was it was because Modesto cancelled their parade and people were hungering for something Christmassy to do," said Farris, who made the call to postpone the event from its original date of Dec. 1 on account of a massive Pacific storm. "It was so surprising just to see so may turn out and support our festival."

The Polar Post Office tent provided kids a chance to write letters to Santa Claus. Approximately 97 letters were collected during the evening festival. Members of the Ceres Youth Commission will be sending replies on behalf of Santa for those who left their mailing address.

The third booth was dubbed "Santa's Workshop," giving children a chance to have their face painted as well as finish a number of holiday crafts, courtesy of the city.

Assisting the city with the event were members of the Ceres Senior Citizens Club who handed out 200 dozen cookies, and hot cocoa to the crowd; and the Ceres Youth Commission which manned the activities booths and took photos of children with Santa.

After the ribbon was cut to officially open Christmas Tree Lane, members of the Central Valley High School band - members had lights attached to their uniforms - led the trolley and tram down the lane.

"It almost had a parade-like atmosphere because the band played and led the way," said Farris.