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Cereans in the holiday mood
A huge crowd flocked to Smyrna Park Saturday evening for a festive Christmas kick-off event and the official opening of Christmas Tree Lane.

The city of Ceres Recreation Department hosted the 21st annual Christmas Festival from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Local groups entertained the crowd, including Edward's Black Belt Academy, Steps Dance Art Center, Footnotes Dance Studio, and bands from the junior high and high schools. The crowd was also led in the singing of Christmas songs under the picnic shelter and treated to free refreshments in the Rudolph's Sweet Shoppe booth. Youngsters crowded into large tents in the parking lot that formed a Santa's Village for the evening. There they made holiday crafts, wrote letters to Santa Claus, and posed for pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Horse-drawn wagon rides were also provided for the crowd to get an elevated view of the lights on Christmas Tree Lane on nearby Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street. A tradition in Ceres since 1961, Christmas Tree Lane continues to draw visitors from neighboring cities. This year marks the 47th for Christmas Tree Lane in Ceres. Homeowners in the Northview subdivision have come and gone since its inception in 1961, but all abide by an unwritten expectation to participate in dazzling light displays.

"It was wall to wall people," said City Manager Brad Kilger who was on hand for the event. "It was a very impressive turn-out and speaks well of community spirit."

Parks and Recreation Director Doug Lemcke also felt that the event was a "great success."

Lemcke said that the city was only able to pull off the event through all the volunteers, including members of the Ceres Senior Citizens Club. The approximately 30 members of the Ceres Youth Commission manned the activities booths and took approximately 100 photos of children with Santa at Frosty's Photo Shop booth.

"The cold weather might have kept some people at home but Chritsmas Tree Lane was crowded and there were lines at every booth that we had," said Traci Dayton Farris, the city's recreation coordinator.

The Polar Post Office tent provided kids a chance to write letters to Santa Claus. Over 100 letters were collected during the evening festival. Farris said that the children will receive responses, courtesy of the Ceres Youth Commission.

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

Those who missed the debut week of the very popular annual Journey to Bethlehem experience hosted at Grace Community Christian Church campus should plan to see it Dec. 13-15. The gates will open at 6 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. Grace is located at 3754 E. Service Road east of Mitchell Road and parking is available onsite as well as at the Orchard Park Shopping Center on Mitchell Road with a free shuttle service available.

"Journey to Bethlehem" is a guided live walking tour from Nazareth to Bethlehem intended to recreate the journey taken by Mary and Joseph in the biblical account of the Christ child's birth. Along the way travelers will visit with the Wise Men, deal with harassing Roman soldiers, talk with shepherds, encounter thieves, stop by the inn, and kneel at the manger. They will also experience sights of Middle Eastern Life, sounds of the village market place, and smells of spices and authentic food.

This is the church's gift to the community and everyone is welcome.