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Stroll Captivates Downtown Crowd
From the classic cars to the horse drawn carriage rides, strolling musicians to the chance for prizes, there was plenty of excitement in the air for Thursday evening's Sweetheart Stroll in downtown Riverbank.

Hosted by the city's Parks and Recreation Department in cooperation with local merchants and funded through the Economic Development Department, the event drew nearly 100 participants to the downtown area. After stopping at the Rotary table to pick up a 'passport' for the evening, participants headed to the 16 different businesses listed on the passport to visit, get their passport stamped, sample some refreshments and take advantage of several special sales at the participating sites. Those who completed the passports were also entered into a drawing for prize baskets.

"We thought it went well," said Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick. "More than a dozen businesses participated, about 100 people came and it seemed to go smoothly."

Listed on the passport and open for the early evening stroll on Thursday were Martha's Quinceanera, Meyers Shoe and Saddle Shop, Creative Salon, Herbalife, Designs by Karen, Cosmo Belleza Yari's, Serendipity Spa, Curves, Mary Beth's Diner, Paul's Video, Pizza Plus, Steven William Day Spa, Landon's, Valadez Jewelers, Salon Bella and Karate for Kids.

Members of the 'Grandpa's Pride' Barbershop Quartet 'strolled' from business to business enchanting residents with their smooth sounds. A handful of classic cars were parked near the intersection of Third and Santa Fe and Riverbank resident Wayne Hill, along with bringing his Corvette to display, brought his trumpet and offered some music to stroll by as well.

"I just decided it's for Valentine's Day, it would be kind of neat," he said of taking part in the stroll.

Tom Fraser and Margie Reis with the Quartz Mountain Stage Lines based in Columbia State Park brought their horse drawn carriage and offered free rides around the downtown area.

"We've been down here before," explained Fraser, noting that city officials contacted them to come and be part of the stroll.

Members of the Riverbank High School Culinary Arts class put together refreshments and were serving them up at a couple of locations. At Designs by Karen, the plates featured a variety of appetizers, from zucchini fitters to cucumber with Parmesan.

"It's exciting," said RHS senior Diana Martinez of being involved in the evening.

Fellow senior Alyssa Ortiz aid she enjoys the experience of getting out into the community, catering events.

Carlos and Rosemary Torres brought the family in for the evening to enjoy the Sweetheart Stroll, and Carlos also had his shiny blue 1937 Chevy on display.

"We're taking part with the city, try to revive the center, the downtown, they did a great job," he said of the recently completed downtown revitalization project.

"It's beautiful," wife Rosemary agreed. "It makes it feel more like a small town."

Also strolling around, filling up their passports, were Steve and Cyndi Costalupes.

"We're getting fresh air and exercise," Cyndi said. "And it's nice we're helping out the merchants, they need it."

"I love the downtown," Steve added of the new plaza area and tree lined streets. "It's good that the city is doing this."

Fitzpatrick classified the stroll as 'an easy event' that went off smoothly and said she was extremely pleased that two major events during the past week dodged raindrops. The groundbreaking for the Teen Center on Feb. 8 and the stroll on Feb. 11 both had good weather. Both were successful, she said, and hopefully pave the way to additional activities.

"We'll be doing some concerts in the park, the plaza area, and we want to get people used to coming downtown," Fitzpatrick said. "We want to build on that."