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Crowd Ushers In Holiday
Fire pits glowed, providing some warmth against the cold night air, children squirmed eagerly along the parade route as they waited for the guest of honor - Santa Claus - to arrive, and there were plenty of food, drink, craft and merchandise booths to keep visitors busy for the evening in the city's Main Street Park.

It was the annual Christmas on Main celebration for Escalon on Saturday, Dec. 5 and despite the decided winter chill, the crowd turned out to enjoy the festivities.

The parade had more entries than in years past and each one featured some type of holiday lighting, whether it was as simple as a flashlight or as elaborate as using traditional holiday lights. Crowd favorites were the Grinch, driving his Grinchmobile, while local dignitaries including Mayor Walt Murken, council members and Miss Escalon and her court tossed candy to the crowd lining both sides of Main Street. The El Portal band provided some music along the parade route and local artist Dorothy Girling was honored as the parade's Grand Marshal, riding in her husband's 1944 Army Jeep.

Once the parade wound its way through the downtown and delivered Santa Claus via fire truck, children had the chance to meet with Santa on the Main Street stage, having their photo taken with him and telling him their Christmas wishes.

Jess Bradley provided some holiday music and a few even tried their hand at karaoke. Escalon Chamber had a booth featuring pre-packaged materials for making s'mores and many took advantage of the opportunity to stake out a fire pit and roast a marshmallow to put together the sweet, sticky teat.

Grandma Peggy Springer was there with granddaughter Regan Springer, 5, who was busy getting just the right amount of toastiness on her marshmallow.

"This is our second year coming," Peggy said. "I'm liking the fire pits tonight."

Regan enjoyed the parade the most, but also seemed excited about putting together her s'more.

Cub Scout Pack 415 member Casey Turner, 10, was happy to be decked out in holiday lights, which stayed lit for him on the parade.

"I'm really liking it," he said as he took another bite of his s'more.

"This is our first year and I just like watching the kids have fun," Billy Turner said.

"My favorite part," agreed local resident Deverie Voral, "is watching the little kids sitting on Santa's lap, telling him what they want.

"And you run into people you don't see very often."

It seemed as if the entire community turned out for the Saturday night festivities, which were coordinated this year by Robert Swift in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce.

Swift said he felt it came off well, with many entries in the parade, double the amount of vendor and activity booths from last year, and lots of people coming to the downtown area.

"It went okay if you see smiles on the kids' faces, if you see people enjoying each other's company, if it's generating good will," he said. "I'm having a good time. People are staying and I'm glad they came out."

The Goff family, which was in the parade in a spinning tea cup-type ride on 'The Window Guys' float, was there to take it all in.

"The marshmallow caught on fire," six-year-old Evan Goff said of having a little trouble putting his s'more together.

His Christmas list, however, was intact and included an electric guitar at the top. Five-year-old Raegan Goff said she enjoyed "spinning around" in the float the most, while parents Ken and Rachille Goff said they're relocating their business to town from their current spot west of Escalon along Highway 120.

"This is quaint and cute and the kids are going to remember it," Ken Goff said, noting that there aren't many communities now that allow the open fire pits in the center of town. "Fifty years from now, they'll remember this."

Local businessman Will Hecht of Heck of a Deal said business at his booth was excellent and he was "having a blast" while Dave Cajias was kept busy running the hay ride all around the downtown area throughout the evening.

Escalon Premier Brands was a corporate sponsor for the event, with several other local businesses and individuals contributing as well.