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Downtown Full Of Action
It took a while ... a long while ... but it was worth it.

With its antiquated underground utilities replaced and the streets enhanced with wider sidewalks, variegated stonework, more trees and other improvements, a redeveloped downtown Riverbank and the new Plaza Del Rio were opened Friday evening with due ceremony.

Entertainers such as country singing star Joni Morris, local guitarist Rachel Renae and the local Ballet Folklorico dancers performed on the stage of a new park set at the city's center. City officials cut a ribbon and unveiled a bronze statue of the Ferryboatman created by sculptor Betty Saletta in honor of the city's start as a ferry site on the Stanislaus River. Vice Mayor Dave White, City Manager Rich Holmer and other dignitaries made speeches.

"The downtown of any city is really its heart. It's a special place where people can gather and celebrate. Much like we are doing tonight. Thanks to Rachel Renae, a home town girl, we have already started this grand event out in a wonderful way," said White in his speech.

The citizens turned out in force, several hundred of them filling rows of rented chairs or sitting on the park's low stone walls beside its water courses and splashing fountain to hear the speakers and watch the entertainers.

Players of the Riverbank Community Theater performed a short skit featuring a gray-bearded Major Burney, credited with founding Burneyville (later renamed Riverbank). Chamber of Commerce members joined Riverbank City Council representatives in unveiling the ferryman statue. Glenn Gresham, the city's senior building inspector, was declared the lucky winner of a bronze miniature of the statue in a raffle where a $20 ticket won him a prize estimated to be worth $2,000.

A car show coordinated by Scott Pettit lined Third Street just south of Santa Fe Street, a strolling performer wandered among the crowd and there was a rock-climbing wall available for children.

The revitalization of downtown has been a long time in the making, White said. Some years ago, the council looked for ways to revitalize the downtown. Storefronts were closing and business going away, he noted. The council held lots of meetings and got lots of good ideas, but really no way to finance the needed improvements.

"All that changed thanks to the Redevelopment Agency," White explained. "Council and citizens realized flooding would continue downtown because of inadequate pipelines, streets would continue to deteriorate and worst of all business would continue to flee without the help of redevelopment. Redevelopment has provided the means to repair, renew and revitalize.

"Now this project took almost two years but we have generations to enjoy it. We appreciate the sacrifice and patience of the residents and businesses and we're glad you're a part of our Riverbank family."