Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus ... just not in Riverbank ... at least not this past weekend.
Local celebrants of all ages were dismayed to find out at the end of last week that the city had decided to cancel the annual crafts faire, parade and Christmas tree lighting that was scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 30.
The tough decision was made by Recreation Supervisor Julia Petit and Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick on Friday, in time, hopefully, to notify parade entrants and vendors expecting to set up on Third Street by Plaza del Rio Park Saturday morning.
The crafts faire had been scheduled to run from noon until after the parade and tree lighting that evening.
Petit said that the decision came down to a safety issue, with blustery winds expected to accompany the forecast rainfall.
When asked about the possibility of rescheduling the event, Petit said it was not likely, because of other communities’ similar events already scheduled for coming weekends. Most likely conflicts could be with parades and other festivities in nearby Ripon, Escalon, Oakdale and Modesto.
It appears that this has been the first cancellation because of weather in the event’s 10-year-plus history.
For a time, the city’s tree lighting happened with a special tree planted near the Community Center, provided by the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce, back before the Teen Center was built.
When the downtown revitalization occurred in 2007, a much larger tree was planted for the purpose in the Plaza del Rio Park, where the tree lightings continued. About the same time, the crafts faire was added, and the parade was moved to the evening, requiring entrants to include lights.
Before that, the parade was held in the afternoon on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but the crowd had to come back in the evening for the tree lighting. The crafts faire used to be held in the Cardozo Middle School auditorium, but not necessarily on the turkey day weekend.
Everything was consolidated a few years ago, with a coordinated schedule that moved the crafts faire outdoors on Third Street, between City Hall North and the Plaza Park, starting at noon, and continuing until after the tree lighting, and the evening parade.
With just 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, scheduling activities has become more problematic.