TURLOCK — The streets of downtown were barren Friday morning, as merchants ceded Black Friday shopping traffic to the big-box stores.
But many were preparing for the evening's annual Festival of Lights celebration, one of the efforts to celebrate the community and lure shoppers to spend their money locally this holiday season.
Spotty afternoon rain did not keep a large crowd from attending the tree-lighting. Attendees were rewarded with conditions that cleared up minutes before the 7 p.m. lighting.
The evening, the 11th annual such party in Turlock, included carriage rides, photographs with Santa and musical entertainment. Several shops stayed open late to welcome crowds, which organizers hoped would number near 8,000.
It culminated in the lighting of the city's Christmas tree in Central Park at Golden State Boulevard and Main Street.
For the second time, the city is making use of a smaller tree than the live cedar decorated for many years. The city chopped down that 80-year-old tree last year after an arborist deemed it a safety hazard. It had been losing large limbs every year and was nearing the end of its life span, officials said.
Next Friday is a big night for downtown, as well.
The nighttime lighted holiday parade is set to make its way down Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Attendees are bound to see a few Elvises, as this year's theme is "Rock 'N' Roll Christmas."
Until 2004, the annual parade was a Saturday morning event. Organizers moved it to a Friday night in the hope of drawing more people.
For more information on the parade, call the Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association at 634-6459 or e-mail executive director Trina Walley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2343.