Every year since 1961, Henry and Vaughn streets in Ceres have been transformed into a holiday wonderland. This Saturday the tradition of Christmas Tree Lane gets underway for the 52nd time - right after the community parties a little bit Saturday evening at Smyrna Park for the annual Ceres Christmas Festival.
The event is expected to fall on a chilly day with a 30 percent chance of rain but city Recreation Coordinator Cambria Pollinger said moderate or light rain will not result in its cancellation.
The 26th annual Christmas Festival is hosted by the city of Ceres and begins with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus at Smyrna Park at 5:30 p.m. Children may have a picture taken with the famous North Pole couple. The festival will include performances by local groups, crafts, face painting, and refreshments. The public may enjoy a ride on a trolley down Christmas Tree Lane until 9:30 p.m.
The festival will then disband and move to nearby Henry and Vaughn streets which will be transformed into Christmas Tree Lane.
Journey to Bethlehem
The celebrated "Journey to Bethlehem" will get underway at Grace Community Christian Church, 3754 Service Road, for the first time on Thursday evening. The event is repeated Friday and Saturday evenings this week and Dec. 12, 13 and 14.
Gates open for the 17th annual traditional Christmas venue at 4 p.m., tours start at 7 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. Saturday tours start at 6 p.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Offered since 1997, Journey seeks to recreate the experience of the pilgrimage made by Mary and Joseph in the biblical account of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child. Mary and Joseph were forced to travel to Bethlehem to participate in the census conducted by Roman officials. In those days, people had to trek to their towns of origin. At the time, Mary was pregnant with Jesus, whom would be born in a manger in Bethlehem. In Ceres, a guide takes small groups through the interactive stations, which are intended to be as realistic as possible.
Pastor Wayne Unger and his wife Sue began the event a decade ago, modeling the event after one started by his home pastor in St. Charles, Mo.
Because it's not uncommon for crowds of 1,300 to show up in a single night, participants are urged to come early to reduce the wait and come bundled in blankets because the experience is all outdoors in chilly temperatures.
Since weather is the unknown factor, the church has a policy of offering to people in lines or tents the option of going through with the tour if light rains sprinkle on Ceres. But normally if it looks like rain or high winds for the evening the event is cancelled.
For more information on Journey, visit graceceres.org or call 531-1902.