By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Yuletide lane to open
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 48th time - right after the community parties a little bit Saturday evening at Smyrna Park for the annual Ceres Christmas Festival.

The 22nd 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 until 7:30 p.m. with the famous North Pole couple for $2 or for free with a canned food donation. Performances by local groups will begin at 5:45 p.m. The public may enjoy a ride on a horse-drawn wagon down Christmas Tree Lane, partake of some free refreshments, write a letter to Santa or do a Christmas craft.

The festival will then disband and move to nearby Henry and Vaughn streets which will be transformed into Christmas Tree Lane.

On Friday night, Dec. 11, members of Ceres Cub Scouts Pack 132 will be selling hot cocoa and cookies on Christmas Tree Lane starting at 6:45 p.m.

Downtown tree lighting

The Ceres Garden Club will present its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, in the Whitmore Park gazebo. The park is located in downtown Ceres at Third Street between North and El Camino.

Refreshments will be served and the children are invited to speak with Santa Claus. Entertainment will be provided by the Ceres High School Jazz Band. The public is invited and there is no charge for this event. It is recommended you bring a lawn chair.

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. 10, 11 and 12. Gates open week nights at 7 p.m. and close at 9 p.m. while the Saturday gates open 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.

Limited parking is available at the church site at 3754 E. Service Road, but free parking and shuttle service is available at Orchard Park Shopping Center at the corner of Mitchell and Don Pedro roads. For more information, call 531-1902.

Pulling off the event is no small task. Set building starts in late spring. There's also costume making. The cast begins practicing in the fall. It all comes together with the help of approximatey 250 people as the church's largest ministry of the year.