The sunny weather Saturday cooperated with the "Let Christmas Shine" theme of Riverbank's Christmas parade and made things comfortable for those at the Sonora Christmas Festival, too.
Riverbank residents lined the downtown streets for the community's 44th annual parade, featuring bands, floats, equestrian groups, motorcycles and a visit from Santa.
A small group of city employees and volunteers keeps the annual parade going, receiving help this year from co-sponsors including the Riverbank Lions Club and Pizza Plus restaurant.
Personnel from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District station pitched in, bringing out a 1939 Van Pelt engine to carry Santa Claus on the parade route. Engineer Paul Autry said the station maintains the antique for events like this.
After more than 70 years of service, the old engine runs fairly well, although starting it requires turning switches and pulling levers in the right sequence.
"The fire service has a lot of history here," Autry said. "The people like to see the fire engine. We do a lot of parades."
Saturday's activities included a craft fair with 20 vendors at the Riverbank Community Center, plus a dozen outdoor booths.
Carol Clarkson of Acampo was a first-time vendor at the fair. Her table offered cutting boards and cutlery, and displayed ceramics and jewelry produced by artists with disabilities. She is promoting the work of several artists from the Central Valley on the recently launched www.creativelyable.com.
Hughson artist Ricky Nelson caught the eye of festivalgoers with his robots made from discarded tools, motor parts and other scrap metal. He had a display case with small, spiderlike pieces, some consisting of pocket watches standing on metal legs.
Nelson said he spent most of his adult life working in construction, but the slow economy gave him time to develop what he calls industrial art. His work was priced from $18 to $50. "I like creating the pieces," he said. "When I get tired of building robots, I find something else in the pile."
An estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people attended the first two days of the 39th annual Sonora Christmas Festival, director Richard Burleigh said. He said the "gorgeous" weather Saturday seemed to lift spirits, contributing to strong sales at the 150 craft and artist booths.
"The audiences were real responsive," Burleigh said. "They were buying more this weekend. They were all in a good mood."
The festival, with live entertainment, kids' activities, food and seasonal drinks, continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $2 for children ages 6 to 12.