Holiday cheer was in abundant measure during Saturday's 28th annual Ceres Christmas Festival in Smyrna Park. Thousands of persons flocked to the park for local entertainment, crafts, hot cocoa and cookies and pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus and then moved to witness the 54th opening of Christmas Tree Lane at nearby Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street.
"It went great," said Cambria Pollinger, supervisor for the city of Ceres Recreation Department. "It was wonderful and we had beautiful weather. The performances were great. What has evolved now is this parade after so we almost have a separate event because we had bands from all three junior highs and both high schools preceding the horse drawn carriage and trolley down Christmas Tree Lane. It was probably one of the best well attended parades I've been to in a long time and this is my 17th Christmas festival."
The parade also included the vintage 1940s Ceres Fire Department engine and the police SWAT vehicle adorned with lights. Band members also took the time to light themselves up with mini lights.
The city Recreation Department put on the festival which featured the Polar Paint Shop where faces were painted; Rudolph's Sweet Shop where Ceres Senior Citizens Club members handed out cookies and hot cocoa; Santa's Workshop where craft projects were offered; and Frosty's Photo Shop where Santa and Mrs. Claus visited with children while posing for photos.
In the next tent over, volunteers were busy painting the faces of children.
Approximately 30 teenagers from the Ceres Youth Commission and the Central Valley Interact and Ceres High School "S" Club helped out.
"They all three set up and cleaned up. Those kids did a phenomenal job. They were there until the bitter end. Those kids just were little worker bees and we are just so grateful."
Pollinger said the event has evolved into "something quite wonderful" and was accomplished with volunteers and a $1,000 budget.
Under the Smyrna Park picnic shelter a number of local groups and schools performed dances or played music for the crowd which turned out for Christmas cheer. Four hundred chairs set out for spectators were all filled. The American Legion Color Guard posted colors and Victoria Boyington sang the National Anthem. With her daughters Diana and Miriam the Boyingtons led the crowd in the singing of "Silver Bells." Dance groups from all three junior high schools and both high schools performed as did Ceres Karate, Steps Dance Arts Center and Footnotes Dance Studio.
At the festival's conclusion, the ribbon was cut to Christmas Tree Lane but many stayed in line for the horse-drawn wagon ride supplied by John Cabral down the lane as well as rides aboard Shane Parson's vintage San Francisco cable car. Neighbors along the lane chatted and ate food around warming fires. Henry and Vaughn were closed to vehicles during and after the festival to allow for unimpeded pedestrian strolls down the lane.
The home and yard decorating frenzy has spilled over onto neighboring Caswell Avenue which is doing its best to lengthen the traditional Christmas Tree Lane.
The tradition of lights and yard displays dates back to December 1961.