The community of Turlock will gather once again to start the holiday season off with the 18th Annual Festival of Lights.
The holiday festival and community Christmas tree lighting will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 25 — the day after Thanksgiving — along Main Street in downtown Turlock. This year's event will feature a number of family-friendly activities including free balloon animals and photo booths, strolling Victorian-era Christmas carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, a magic show — and, of course, Santa Claus.
"We really tried to keep it with a down-home Christmas feel," said City of Turlock events assistant Amber Traini. "It's really going to be a great event that keeps with Turlock's tradition for the past 18 years. The City is excited about carrying on the tradition."
The holiday fun will start on Nov. 23 with the 2nd Annual Gingerbread House Contest. Bakers of all ages and skill levels are invited to enter the contest. All houses will be on display in the Reed Realty office at 5 E. Main St. in downtown Turlock for the Festival of Lights through the Turlock Christmas Parade on Dec. 2. The contest is free to enter and there are cash prizes for adult and four youth categories. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 22 or call the Turlock Journal at 634-9141.
Along with gingerbread houses, those strolling down Main Street during the event will be able to peruse over 20 vendors that will line downtown from Broadway to Palm offering arts, crafts and unique food items. Many of the downtown businesses will also have sidewalk booths and holiday deals.
A community stage, sponsored by Torre Reich Construction, will be set up in the 10 East Kitchen & Tap House parking lot near Central Park. Different acts will be performing throughout the event, with the Westside Ministries dancers taking the stage at 4 p.m. and an audience-interactive magic show starting at 5:15 p.m.
At 5:20 p.m. Santa Claus is scheduled to fly in from the North Pole and receive visitors at Santa's Turlock Village, which will be set up in Central Park. The community is encouraged to take free photos of Santa with their own cameras and phones.
At 5:45 p.m., a candlelight hymn walk will start at the corner of Main and Broadway and make its way to the Christmas tree in Central Park. All are welcome to join in the community sing, led by First United Methodist Church.
The highlight of the evening will be at 6 p.m. when Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth turns on the lights for the 2016 community Christmas tree. Festival attendees are invited to continue to enjoy the holiday cheer through 7 p.m.