Gustine's Christmas Gala
Tractors, trucks and lights
welcome arrival of St. Nick
By BLAIR CRADDOCK
BEE STAFF WRITER
GUSTINE � Sparkling and glittering, honking and clanking, a parade of big rigs and tractors opened the Christmas season Saturday night in this farm town.
"Look!" said 8-year-old Caity Allison, as a shiny 18-wheel tanker truck rolled slowly down Fifth Street, wrapped in strings of multicolored Christmas lights.
"We like the lights," explained Caity's sister, 10-year-old Cassie.
Blasts of cold wind didn't stop about 500 people from coming out to watch the parade, which capped a day of activities.
"We do this every year. Rain, wind, whatever," Kellie Ricker said. She and her 11-year-old daughter, Meghan, were bundled up while watching the parade.
They chatted with Stacey Zeiger, who wore a puffy jacket and kept rubbing her hands together to warm them.
"We just moved here," said Zeiger, who exchanged hugs with sons Jesse, 5, and Logan, 8, to help them stay warm.
"We're from Tracy, and they don't do this," she said. "I just love the small towns."
Rachel Mitchell and her husband, Tony, sat wrapped in a blanket with daughters Kalil, 6, Felicia, 4, and son Anthony, 1.
"We just moved here," Rachel Mitchell said. "We moved from Santa Cruz, so we've gone from the lighted boat parade to the lighted truck-and-tractor parade."
Albert Rocha, the owner of Rocha's Backhoe Service, drove his Peterbilt truck, with 15 family members riding along in Santa hats.
"We want to make it a family tradition to be part of the parade," said Shari Fraga, his daughter.
The parade capped the Gustine Chamber of Commerce's "Olde-Fashioned Christmas at Home" festival, held annually since 1991.
"We've been going since 7 o'clock this morning," said Mary Ford, on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. "We fed 725 people this morning. That's the most we've ever fed."
A dance studio became "Santa's Workshop" for children's craft projects.
The evening parade kicked off with a Christmas tree lighting by Gustine's mayor, Jim Bonta, who was sworn in Nov. 16.
Deidre Kelsey, a member of the Merced County Board of Supervisors, wore a Santa hat as she drove a small all-terrain vehicle with five rat terriers aboard.
The dogs wore Santa hats, too. "They love to ride on the ATV, so it's like home," Kelsey said. "Except for the hats."
Ricker said the parade is one thing she loves about Gustine.
"I moved here from San Jose four years ago, and I would never, ever move back," said Ricker, whose family began the day hunting pheasants with Meghan's junior hunt club. "This is just a really, really family-oriented community."
Check out Gustine's website, www.gustinechamberofcommerce.com.
If Santa Claus is driving his tractor through the streets of downtown Gustine, Christmas can't be far off. The city held its annual Lighted Commercial Truck and Tractor Parade on Saturday night, with Santa pulling the Westside 4-H float.
Merced County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey and her terriers are bundled up against the cold winter air Saturday night as she navigates her all-terrain vehicle through the downtown streets during Gustine's Christmas parade. The parade is part of the city's Olde-Fashioned Christmas at Home.
Sophie Rios, Marco Rios and Jeremiah Real, left to right, view the parade with Pam Bluett.
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