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Christmas Festival to open lane Saturday
Annual Christmas Festival at Smyrna Park kicks off Christmas Tree Lane Saturday
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Linda Wheeler was preparing her Vaughn Street yard for this weekends debut of Christmas Tree Lane by setting a wreath on her lamp post. She said this is her 13th year of participating in the annual holiday tradition. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Christmas officially gets underway in Ceres this Friday with the lighting of a Whitmore Park Christmas Tree and Saturday with the 28th annual Christmas Festival and grand opening of the celebrated Christmas Tree Lane.

The Ceres Garden Club and Ceres Chamber of Commerce is hosting the 5:30 p.m. Friday tree lighting ceremony at the Whitmore Park Gazebo. The public is invited to attend.

Each December the residents of Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street west of Smyrna Park decorate and light up their yards for what has been a multi-generational Christmas Tree Lane experience that started in 1961.

On Monday Linda Wheeler was braving chilly temperatures to decorate her Vaughn Street home for the 13th year.

"I truly enjoy it," said Wheeler. "The decorating is a little bit time consuming but seeing the little kids and the families male it all worth it."

Saturday's festivities begin in Smyrna Park at 5:30 p.m. with performances by the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, local talent entertainment and holiday songs as well as hot chocolate.

Children will be lining up to take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Frosty's Photo Shop booth from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Photos will be free but the city is collecting a donation of canned food to be given for those less fortunate this holiday.

Children and their parents are also invited to do crafts at the Santa's Workshop tent.

The Polar Paint Shop will be where children get their faces painted.

Rudolph's Sweet Shop tent will be the place to pick up refreshments.

The entertainment program under the Smyrna Park shelter area begins with Victoria Boyington singing the National Anthem and leading out with Christmas songs. Performances will be staged by eight groups including local school dance groups, and youth from Steps and Footnotes dance studios, and Edward's Black Belt Academy.

The focus will turn to the opening of Christmas Tree Lane following the entertainment which draws to a close at 7:15 p.m. A ribbon cutting will take place at the Henry Avenue entrance to the lane. A small parade down the lane will follow that features approximately 150 Ceres students in the marching bands of Ceres and Central Valley high schools and Mae Hensley and Blaker Kinser junior high schools. The streets will be blocked off to vehicular traffic so that pedestrians may stroll the lane without fear of being run over or putting up with exhaust fumes.

"It'll be an opportunity to walk around and have fun," said recreation manager Traci Farris.