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Santa Lights Up The Christmas Tree
Riverbank residents braved the cold and turned out in force for the evening lighting of the community Christmas tree on Thursday, perhaps attracted by the variety of events they were promised.

Who would have thought ice skates would find a use in downtown Riverbank, even if they were not skating on ice?

Carefree youngsters rented the skates, real ice skates, and glided and tumbled on a rink with a surface of what looked like plastic.

That drew the attention even of television cameras.

A so-called trackless train resembling a children's nursery toy but big enough to seat adult-sized people gave rides around the intersection of Santa Fe and Third streets - somehow managing to miss all the strolling residents.

Red-capped, wandering minstrels of the Rio Arts went wandering and sang carols under the direction of Joey Huestis.

Santa himself turned up with Mrs. Claus, fired up the Christmas tree lights with a mere wave of his hand and adjourned to the Designs by Karen store to sit beside a glowing stove and hear what children want for Christmas.

Beyond the evergreen tree now sparkling with lights in the Plaza del Rio, the stage welcomed a number of local entertainers.

There were bands from California Elementary, Cardozo Middle School and Riverbank High School, the diminutive and charming Tot Time Tenors, performers from the Riverbank Community Theater doing a skit titled "The Night Before Christmas" and the Church of the Nazarene Choir.

2008 Citizen of the Year Esther Rosario and Youth of the Year Manuel Castano took turns reading the names of loved ones memorialized in lights on the tree.

There was even hot chocolate and popcorn on tap at City Hall North opposite the plaza.

Sponsors for this ambitious event were Target, Buethe Publications, The Write Design, Designs by Karen, Hair & Nail Salon, Scott Pettit of Karate for Kids, Starbucks of Patterson Road, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Prevention District, Riverbank Chamber of Commerce and City of Riverbank.

Committee members who put together the show included City Manager Rich Holmer, Economic Development & Housing Director Tim Ogden, Housing and Economic Specialist Melissa Holdaway, Milli Sanders of The Write Design and Karen Bickford of Designs by Karen.