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Festival draws hundreds to Smyrna Park
• Christmas Tree Lane opens
Santa with Gerry McCay
Four-year-old Gerry McCay presented his want list to Santa Claus during Saturday evening’s Ceres Christmas Festival at Smyrna Park. The festival helped kick off the start of Christmas Tree Lane next to the park. Santa was played by Chuck Pederson. - photo by Jeff Benziger

For a time Saturday evening nobody knew if rain was going to ruin the annual Ceres Christmas Festival starting at 5:30 p.m. Those who arrived at Smyrna Park early enjoyed the benefit of clear skies – for about an hour – before the raindrops came. But the parade featuring local school bands led a procession down Christmas Tree Lane.

The city Recreation Department organized the festival which featured activities underneath the Smyrna Park picnic shelter. Hundreds of persons flocked to the park for holiday cheer, crafts, hot cocoa and cookies before the 58th opening of Christmas Tree Lane at nearby Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street. A total of 141 families with waited in line with their parents and relatives to sit on the lap of Santa’s lap, who bore a strong resemblance to Chuck Pederson, husband of Ceres Police Department administrative assistant Marcy Pederson.

Members of the Ceres Senior Citizens Club distributed dozens of cookies as well as cups of hot cocoa. President Betty Khan was busy handing the free goodies out to a never-ending stream of festival goers.

Betty Khan
Ceres Senior Citizen Club President Betty Khan hands out cups of hot cocoa to a mom at the Ceres Christmas Festival on Saturday. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Pam Devine, a 30-year Ceres resident who had never been to the Christmas Festival until Saturday, took her grandson to it and enjoyed the fun.

Neighbors along the lane chatted and ate food around warming fires. Some even sold food for charity.

Henry and Vaughn were closed to vehicles during and after the festival to allow for unimpeded pedestrian strolls down the lane.

The tradition of lights and yard displays has become known as a Ceres tradition which started in December 1961. The spirit of the lane continues to spread around the block with residents on adjoining Caswell Avenue increasing their light display each year.

Scarlett and Jillian Parks
Ceres twins Scarlett and Jillian Parks, 3, enjoyed doing a craft involving candy to make Christmas tree art at the Ceres Christmas Festival on Saturday. - photo by Jeff Benziger

Mark White who moved to Christmas Tree Lane four years ago, continued with his yard decorations in the theme of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a film starring Chevy Chase. 

White finds that the festive display of Christmas lights adds about $30 to $40 to the December electric bill but he doesn’t mind for the joy it brings.

students drummers
Percussionists from Ceres and Central Valley high schools practice for the parade down Christmas Tree Lane on Saturday evening. - photo by Jeff Benziger
Christmas Tree Lane
Visitors to Christmas Tree Lane enjoyed thousands of lights. - photo by Jeff Benziger