That jolly old elf, Santa himself, accompanied by Mrs. Claus, was a featured attraction at Saturday’s Christmas Festival in downtown Riverbank.
A Crafts Faire began at noon, featuring food and gift vendors from across the area, and continued until about 8 p.m. on Third Street, in front of City Hall North and the Plaza del Rio Park.
This year was the 16th Annual Craft Faire, hosted as part of the Christmas Festival activities. Although there were clouds in the sky that caused a bit of a haze around town the temperatures were quite favorable for some outdoor shopping. There were over 20 vendors on hand including My Story Blocks and More, Dale’s Gourmet Kettle Popcorn, Timeless Real Estate, Island Mist Naturals, Dream Wind Creations with handmade Native American crafts, Simply Kissable, Crochet Dolls, Pink Zebra, Lipsense, and much more. Riverbank Cares was on hand signing people up that wanted to ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ for Christmas, Kiwanis selling See’s Candy and the Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance manned the Oakdale Animal Control booth that promoted shelter pet adoptions along with vouchers for people to spay and neuter their pets. The Riverbank Historical Society Museum’s Riverbank Engine was on display and Ben and Diane Talbert were there to spread Christmas cheer. City Council member Cal Campbell and his wife strolled through the craft faire.
“This was the first year we were on our own to organize it (Christmas Festival),” said the City of Riverbank Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick. “Kerrie (Webb, Parks and Rec Supervisor) took the lead and did a great job. The weather was great and the attendance was better than ever for the parade.”
One of the highlights of the parade, Fitzpatrick shared, was the Girl Scout float and the Cardozo Middle School float that surpassed expectations. She also gave a special thank you to the Riverbank River Rats for their monetary donation for the bands.
An evening highlight included the 49th edition of the annual Christmas Parade, running down Santa Fe Street from Sixth to Second streets beginning at about 5:30 p.m. It featured marching or walking units, bands, and lighted vehicles and floats of all kinds, decorated to the theme of Jingle Bell Rock.
Santa and Mrs. Claus brought up the rear of the parade, riding high atop the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Department’s Engine 26.
After a brief intermission, the pair returned to the Plaza del Rio Park to conduct tree lighting duties. After a few Christmas songs, and the requisite countdown, they hurled their pixie dust upon the tree and it lit up for the holiday season.
Following the ceremony, while the crafts faire continued, awards for the many categories entered in the parade were announced over the PA system by Recreation Supervisor Kerrie Webb.
The Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (or NJROTC) color guard led off things with a first in that category.
The Junior Bruins Youth Football Program won in the Float/Non-Profit division and Girls Scouts group 3382 won the Float/Walking group.
The Knights of Columbus entry received the trophy in the Vintage Car Pre-1948 division and the Daniel Alba Bike Club won in the Bicycle Club group.
The Highway 99 PT Cruiser Club won their division.
Connie Hawkins of the Itsy Bitsy Ranch in Sonora won in the equestrian field with her 26-year-old, 33-inch tall miniature horse named Pogonip. Connie drove her in a rare Buckeye Norena show cart. Pogonip is reported to be in the Miniature Horse Hall of Fame for Performance and Halter.
Special awards were given out at the conclusion of the event as well. They included the A.J. Meyers Equestrian Award, which went to Hawkins and Pogonip.
The Scott Pettit Memorial Award went to the Cardozo Middle School Leadership Class float.
Best Overall – Judges’ Choice was awarded to the Girl Scout group.
News Reporter Virginia Still contributed to this story.