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Festival Ushers In Holiday Season
At the end of Saturday evenings Christmas Parade in downtown Riverbank, Santa, Mrs. Claus and a bevy of youngsters riding in a vintage fire truck, headed for the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. After overseeing the lighting of the tree, Santa listened to youngsters gift requests. - photo by Ric McGinnis/The News

Clear, brisk weather brought out both large numbers of vendors and a big crowd to the annual Christmas Festival in downtown Riverbank on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Stretching down both sides of Third Street between City Hall South and the Plaza del Rio park, the craft faire started at 2 p.m. and continued until well after the annual tree lighting ceremony in the plaza after the holiday light parade.

Riverbank city Mayor Richard O’Brien and other members of the city council were among shoppers in the afternoon, and they rode in the parade and joined together to welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus to the tree lighting in the park.

Darlene Barber-Martinez, a council member and also the reigning Citizen of the Year, served as Grand Marshal in the parade, which stepped off after dark. Marching and walking units, mounted entries, floats and trailers, all well-lit for the holiday season, paraded along Santa Fe Street, both beginning and ending at the Community Center.

Parade watchers stretched out all along the downtown route as well, applauding the various entries as they passed by.

Santa and his group brought up the end of the parade, riding on a vintage fire engine, then returning to the Plaza del Rio park for the tree lighting. Following that ceremony, Santa made himself available for youngsters to come and visit, giving them a chance to whisper their desires for the holiday.

The craft faire and nighttime lighted parade are the traditional way for the community to usher in the holiday season, typically hosted the Saturday after Thanksgiving.