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Christmas Tree Lighting Thursday
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Riverbank's Christmas Tree Lighting is set for tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 10 and will have a variety of activities centering on the Plaza del Rio at Third and Santa Fe streets.

The lighting of the tree by Santa Claus and the reading of names dedicated to the Christmas tree lights will take place at 6 p.m. but the program will start at 5 p.m. with "ice skating" on a synthetic plastic surface, miniature train rides, wandering minstrels, refreshments, musical and stage entertainment and door prizes.

There will even be a special tribute to Petty Officer 3rd Class James Layton, a local area Navy corpsman who was killed in Iraq and buried at Burwood Cemetery with full military honors a few months ago.

The evening's event, sponsored by the City of Riverbank and Chamber of Commerce, will have a synthetic "ice" skating rink set up from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the intersection of Third and Santa Fe streets. There will be a $5 skating fee, which includes the skate rental for 30-minute sessions. If you bring an unwrapped toy (for ages 2 to 10 years), it's only $4.

Another new feature will be trackless train rides from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for $3 per person.

Performances by Cardozo Middle School Band, Riverbank High School Color Guard, Tot Time Tenors, and Church of the Nazarene Choir are just some of the entertainment. The Riverbank Community Theater will present a Christmas skit.

Santa will use his magical powers again this year to light the tree and then pose for photographs with the children. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras and get pictures of Santa with the kids.

There will be barrels for collecting toys for the "Riverbank Cares Toy Drive" and wandering minstrels of Rio Arts will be "Caroling for Cans." The cans of food will be donated to Christian Food Sharing.

Rio Arts will be performing throughout December in various places in Riverbank and Oakdale. All collections will go to the underprivileged this holiday season.

Esther Rosario, 2008 Citizen of the Year, and Manual Castana, 2008 Youth of the Year, will read the names dedicated to the lights on the tree. If you would like to have a loved one's name read, you can purchase a Christmas Light for $3 in Designs by Karen (3306 Santa Fe St.) 869-8676, or in the Hair and Nail Station (2778 Patterson Road) 869-4247, or in City Hall North (6707 Third St.) 863-7122.

Public Works announced the intersection of Third and Santa Fe streets will be closed at Topeka to Stanislaus and Second to Fourth streets from 1 p.m. until midnight for Thursday's event.