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Christmas Festival postponed on account of storm
An expected major Pacific weather storm has resulted in the postponement of the annual Ceres Christmas Festival which had been scheduled to take place this Saturday.

"For us it's more of a safety concern, not only for the public but our employees as well," said Traci Farris, recreation coordinator for the city of Ceres. "Everyone thought it best if we postpone it a week."

The bad weather and postponement of the festival - normally the kickoff for Christmas Tree Lane -- from Dec. 1 to Dec. 8 may cause a delay in homeowners lighting up their homes and yards. Farris said homeowners are being notified of the festival being set back a week, which may prompt them to refrain from turning lights. Farris said the decision has always been up to homeowners of Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street.

While many people were out getting shopping deals on Black Friday, residents of Henry and Vaughn were dragging out boxes of decorations, hanging lights and sorting out tangled extension cords for Christmas decorations that will be part of the Ceres annual tradition of Christmas Tree Lane.

The 25th annual Ceres Christmas Festival -- now set for Saturday, Dec. 8 -- will formally open the 51st season of Christmas Tree Lane. The first Christmas Tree Lane opened December 1961 on Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street. Fifty-one years later it's still going strong.

The city of Ceres is sponsoring the 5:30 p.m. festival in nearby Smyrna Park which is free to the public and should last about two hours. Highlights of the festival will include performances by local youth groups, arts and crafts, face painting for the kids, a tent where children may write letters to Santa, free coffee, cocoa and cookies, and pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus ($2 each or free with a donation of canned food). Horse-drawn carriage rides will begin being offered at 7:30 p.m.

Jim Bowen, 68, and son Jerry Bowen have participated in Christmas Tree Lane since 1972. The Bowen yard is best known for a familiar plywood train which Jim built and modeled after a grocery display he once spied as manager of the New Deal store in Modesto.

"It's part of our giving back to the community, the elderly and the kids," said Bowen. "It's our way of saying 'Merry Christmas.' There's lots of good people who live on Christmas Tree Lane."

Son Jerry remembered some of the hassles of putting up with traffic during December when he lived there.

"It sucked in high school," said Jerry, who was helping his father decorate the yard. "I played basketball and it wasn't like your friends could drop you off and go home and swap out your clothes. It's always packed. But what is cool is seeing the kids who go by. This is all about families and it gives them stuff to do that doesn't cost a lot."

Each year Bowen and his wife Sheila have lost items taken from the yard but it hasn't deterred their seasonal effort.

"We always have theft. Every year they get me for something. It's sad but you can't let one bad apple ruin the whole show."

Bowen said all the lights and electricity to power his festive display adds about $25 extra to his power bill. Replacing lights from the year prior can cost about $150.

But the effort is appreciated, he said. Once he received a card of thanks from a couple in Germany who merely addressed the card to 1913 Christmas Tree Lane.

"They had been visiting someone here and saw our house and they thanked us for it. Somehow the post office got it to us."