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Crowd Enjoys Special Main Street Celebration
Escalon's annual Christmas on Main Street this year could be summed up in one word: "Wow!"

That was the reaction from coordinator Amanda Swift, who was happily surveying the scene in the city's downtown Main Street Park on Saturday night. Mother Nature smiled on the celebration, which was blessed with clear, chilly weather and a perfect evening for the holiday light parade, Christmas caroling and making s'mores in the fire pits set up especially for the event.

"It's a much bigger turnout than we expected," Swift admitted. "It's definitely a bigger event than last year."

A variety of booths, from those serving up hot chocolate and caramel corn to those offering special holiday gift giving items, opened up late in the afternoon and drew the crowds even before the holiday light parade stepped off at 5:30 p.m.

City Manager Greg Greeson served as emcee and the parade went for nearly half an hour, with entries including both the high school and El Portal marching bands, floats from the Valley Home 4-H and the Escalon Covenant Church, among others, the colorguard, lighted vehicles featuring representatives from the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department, Escalon City Council members and more. Honored as Grand Marshal of the parade was Jess Bradley, who has been a supporter of community activities for years, often serving as DJ and doing some singing of his own at the various events.

He was greeted with cheers and warm applause as he rode in the parade, just behind the lead colorguard.

Along with the parade and food and merchandise booths, the Escalon Kiwanis and Key Club had a booth where children could color and make holiday crafts, Santa was kept busy on stage, visiting the children and having his picture taken with them. Each child also received a candy cane.

Chamber of Commerce members were running the spinning wheel game - where everyone that spun won a prize - and handling the rush for s'mores ingredients.

Dent Elementary student Steven Grossi, 7, was busy warming himself by a fire pit while chowing down on the sweet s'mores treat.

"This," he replied, holding up pieces of chocolate and marshmallow when asked what the best part of the night was. "I like the marshmallow."

Grandmother Ilde Grossi was also enjoying the evening.

"I like seeing a lot of people, some friends," she said. "My granddaughter was in the parade, she plays clarinet in the El Portal band."

Chamber member Cheryl Harter said she was thrilled with the turnout - it was a packed park for much of the evening - and gave credit to many for helping pull it together.

"Pat (Chamber president Pat Brown), Amanda and the Lions Club, they get kudos, big kudos for this," Harter said. "The city has also helped out."

The community Christmas tree was lit for the occasion, with a special lighting ceremony staged earlier, on Friday night. The Lions Club provided the tree, brought in by Nancy's Christmas Trees, and the Monterey Pine was decorated with some volunteer help and assistance from the city's Public Works employees, who put on the lights.

"We enjoyed everything," said Jerri Levers, attending with her four-year-old daughter, Laurie. "The parade was lots of fun for kids."

Hay rides were a popular attraction as well, making a loop down Main to Third, on to Coley and to First, then back on to Main. Those riding the route often burst into Christmas carols, serenading those in homes they passed along the way.

"I love it," said Deverie Voral, enjoying the hay ride and the atmosphere of the evening. "This is why we live in a small town."

Last year's event was hampered by unsettled weather and was actually cut short by a downpour. This year, said Swift, it couldn't have been more perfect.

"I had quality help and we're pleased with both nights," she said of the tree lighting and the Christmas on Main celebration. "The weather cooperated and I'm thrilled, really excited."