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Holiday Season Ushered In With Raindrops
Rain threatened to douse the flames in the fire pits while people tried to roast marshmallow for s'mores and marchers in the parade had to dodge the drops, but Escalon's annual Christmas on Main was a bonafide hit, despite the conditions.

Grand Marshal Minnie (Franceschetti) Laugero was greeted with warm applause as she was driven in the parade by Escalon City Council member - and grandson - Jeff Laugero, and both sides of Main Street were jammed with people there to enjoy the holiday light parade. Moving here with her family from Santa Cruz when she was just 4 years old, Minnie Laugero lived on a ranch on what is now Seidner Road, arriving in town at the train depot in the park in 1920. Now at 94, she is getting ready to retire after 66 years of working at Escalon Premier Brands, starting with the firm when it was Escalon Packers.

Some two dozen entries were featured in the parade, with motorcycles decked out with twinkling lights, hay wagons carrying various groups, the American Legion Colorguard and American Legion Riders, El Portal Panther marching band and classic cars all featured. The parade kicked off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday evening, sandwiched in between a variety of other activities, and ran a full half-hour. Vendor booths, which filled the city's Main Street Park, opened for business earlier and featured everything from the local Outlaws youth football team serving up popcorn, nachos and drinks to young Adam Amos with candy and homemade treats, raising money for his journey as a People to People young ambassador to Australia next summer.

Hot chocolate and candy was offered by Escalon High's Travel Club at one booth, while the local P & L Concrete had small plants to give away and lots of information to share on plant care.

Merchandise ranged from purses to hair accessories, jewelry to collectibles and there were informational booths as well, including the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life booth promoting Escalon's inaugural relay, slated for next June at Escalon High School. Volunteers from Escalon Animal Shelter were on hand with a horse trailer full of adoptable pets, with a 'petting zoo' for residents to visit.

Members of the Escalon High Key Club staffed a free coloring booth for youngsters, and BBVA Compass bank employees and family members helped attendees make commemorative ornaments to take home.

Music on stage was provided by the guitar students of Byrd's Main Street Music shop, along with a solo appearance by LilLana Cajias with her 'acoustic Christmas' performance. Jess Bradley also took the stage following the parade and offered some holiday tunes as children had the chance to visit briefly with Santa, have a photo taken, and get a candy cane and small gift.

Coordinated by the Escalon Chamber of Commerce, this year's event was the largest one in the last few years, drawing a huge crowd in spite of the drizzle. Rain was not constant, but did come and go and the majority of residents had packed umbrellas or wore rain gear to the park as a precautionary measure.

Chamber president Pat Brown said she was pleased with the large turnout and those attending the event found many reasons to enjoy it as well.

"I just love it," said Tammy Stagno, taking son Hayden, 4, to see Santa. "It's a nice atmosphere."

Zach Ellis was attending with his young daughter Ali, 2, and another half dozen youngsters, a mix of his own children and a couple of nieces.

"I actually like the lights and the crowd," he said. "And it's fun for the kids."

The Escalon Lions Club-sponsored community Christmas tree was adorned with lights and decorations adjacent to the caboose, the Kiwanis Club was serving up hot cider and cookies and the fire pits set up in the park were getting plenty of use from youngsters roasting marshmallows to put together the s'mores offered by the Chamber of Commerce.

"It's just a small town feeling, the parade of lights was our favorite part," said Jenni Spears, helping son Konnor, 6, put together a s'more.

"It's good for the kids," agreed husband Shane Spears.

Sarah Cowan, from Linden, brought her three young sons to the event, attending with local relatives.

"This is our first time here," she said. "We want to move here."

Three-year-old Kianah Nunes was at the coloring booth with grandmother LaDonna Humphrey and the two were enjoying some quality coloring time together.

"We're babysitting for the weekend so here we are," Humprey said.

Young Kianah already had her holiday wishes ready to share with Santa.

"A DVD for the car ... and a Tinkerbell movie," she said.

Newcomer to the community, Kathy Arbuckle, was signing up for Escalon's first Relay for Life.

"We just moved here last June," she explained. "I did the Tracy one (relay) for years."

A cancer survivor, Arbuckle now plans to participate locally.

Escalon event chair Jeff Fernandes and other committee members staffed an information booth, getting the word out about the June 2011 relay. ACS staffer Sheila Doberenz said she was buoyed by the community spirit she saw at the holiday event and excited about the possibility for channeling that energy into Relay for Life.

"I love Escalon," she said.