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Parade, Tree Lighting Complete Christmas Kick Off Celebration
Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in downtown Riverbank on Saturday evening, riding atop a Consolidated fire engine, to signify the close of the Christmas Parade, which was celebrating its 48th year in Riverbank. They then lit the community Christmas tree. Ric McGinnis/The News

Attendees bundled up with warm coats, hoodies, gloves and scarves to endure the cold, gray wet weather this past Saturday for the annual Christmas Festival in downtown Riverbank. Vendors began setting up at 10 a.m. and stayed until 8 p.m. for the 15th annual Craft Faire, with only three cancelations due to the weather. There were over 20 vendors that braved the storm and put up their pop-ups for cover, eager to sell their hand crafted items like aprons, hats, stockings, scarves, dreamcatchers, paintings, jewelry, candles, leather goods, soaps and much more.

“Attendance was about the same for the craft faire as years before,” stated Sue Fitzpatrick, Parks and Recreation Director. “There was a steady flow of people. Attendance also seemed to be about the same for the parade as years past.

“The rain was mild until the end so did not really effect things much but it seems to always be extremely cold the night we hold this event, just like it seems to be extremely hot when we do the Cheese and Wine Festival.”

The vendors were set up for business on Third Street between Topeka and Santa Fe streets.

“The staff in the Recreation Department’s favorite part was the Charlie Brown Theme of the parade and the Riverbank School District Bus,” added Fitzpatrick. “My favorite part is always when the tree is lit because I know how hard the staff works to decorate it and it always looks great in the end.”

The festival kicked off with a performance from the Parks and Rec Hip Hop class performing for guests in the center of downtown. With shirts that had “Straight Outta North Pole” on the front, Santa hats that lit up, and colorful Christmas light necklaces, the hip hop dancers brought some fresh moves to the streets of Riverbank for the festival.

Parks and Recreation specialist Stephanie Argumedo and assistant coach Vanessa Argumedo choreographed the performance and although there was a chill in the air the group blew up the spot.

The parade was organized by the Ministerial Association in the past along with the City administration office and has slowly become more of a parks and recreation event, according to Fitzpatrick. Engrossed with duties for the Public Works Department Luanne Bain, the City administrative assistant, may be delegating more Christmas festival functions over to Parks and Recreation after many years of hard work on the event.

“We always want to have the goal of more craft vendors and parade entries so that would be what we would hope for next year,” expressed Fitzpatrick. “Luanne Bain, Administrative Assistant for Public Works, Kerrie Webb, Recreation Supervisor and David McDaniel, Senior Parks Maintenance Worker and a variety of other staff did a great job in organizing the event.”

Having weathered the storm promised for Saturday afternoon, a good sized crowd came out that evening to participate in the 48th Annual Christmas Parade in downtown Riverbank.

The crowd remained intermittent throughout the day, along with the rain, but as the time for the parade approached, people gathered, looking to lock down their favorite vantage point for watching the procession.

As most parades do, the festivities began at the Community Center, where entrants line up and are organized in order before they travel down Santa Fe Street towards downtown. The route turns south at Second Street, then returns to the Community Center on Stanislaus Street.

Since participants were lit up with lights and other decorations in the dark, it was hard to tell exactly how threatening the skies over the parade were. As it turned out, rain didn’t come until after the parade was over and Santa and Mrs. Claus had lit the Community Christmas Tree in the Plaza del Rio park.

There were marching units, floats, decorated trucks, cars and other vehicles, as well as a contingent of mounted entries, including members of the Stanislaus Sheriff’s Mounted Posse detail.

The parade kicked off with a Sheriff’s Patrol Unit, then the color guard from the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Corps unit at Riverbank High School. Members of the city council rode on the Historical Society’s 1919 Model T Fire Engine, the first one purchased by the Volunteer Firefighters of the time. Mayor Richard O’Brien, Supervisor Bill O’Brien and other dignitaries rode on other vehicles.

Organizers said that most of the parade entries were the only ones in their category, so they were awarded first place trophies.

Young Payton Jillian and her pony Louie was the winner of the A.J. Meyers Memorial Equitation Award. The Knights of Columbus 1937 Chevy car was the recipient of the Scott Pettit Memorial Award. And Judge’s Choice went to Itsy Bitsy Ranch of Sonora for Pogonip, a 25-year-old, 33-inch high Miniature Horse that was being driven by Connie Hawkins in her rare Buckey Norena Show Cart.


News Correspondent Ric McGinnis contributed to this report.