Cowboy Christmas and other fairs coming up in Modesto, surrounding areas

The Cowboy Christmas Craft Show returns Nov. 25-26.
The Cowboy Christmas Craft Show returns Nov. 25-26. Submitted by Karen Serpa

When it comes to making lists and checking twice, it’s good to start early.

Sure, we’re still a week out from Thanksgiving, but let’s face it, turkeys and pilgrims are harder to find than candy canes and snowmen at pretty much any store you visit.

Of course, holiday craft fairs always get a jump on things, with churches, communities and organizations peddling handmade wares since early this month. This weekend, Hughson’s longstanding annual fair returns along with other events (see Friday’s Scene calendar for a full list of holiday happenings).

Next weekend, in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, things really kick into high holiday gear. Part of that is thanks to Small Business Saturday and its focus on local retailers.

Indeed, Nov. 25-27 marks a big weekend for fests, fairs and tree lightings across the Modesto and Mother Lode regions with events like the large Sonora Christmas Festival and Modesto’s massive Mod Shop (we’ll have more in next week’s Bee on these specific events).

And in Oakdale, they’ll kick off Christmas with kitsch and Cowboy Santa at the 23rd annual Cowboy Christmas Craft Show on Nov. 25-26.

“We’re known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, so we have to have a Cowboy Santa,” said Karen Serpa, manager of the event’s sponsor, Oakdale’s Cowboy Museum.

Sporting Wranglers, cowboy hat and boots – even a big cowboy buckle to keep his big red coat tight – Cowboy Santa rides in on a horse every year on the Saturday during the celebration. It’s the highlight for families at the two-day Western-themed craft fair.

“He’ll ride (his horse) up and it’s always fun for the kids because then they get to come up and pet his horse and interact with it,” Serpa said. “Some kids have never been so close to a horse before.”

Cowboy Santa rides in at 11 a.m. Nov. 26 and visits with kids until 2 p.m. – maybe a little later depending on how many remain in line.

Weather notwithstanding, Serpa expects about 500 to turn out that Friday with 3,000 strolling among vendors and listening to live music. The event draws from across the Modesto and Mother Lode regions as well as from Fresno and the Bay Area.

Western arts and crafts are the hallmark for the event with home decor, furniture, leather goods, museum items and more. The Oakdale High School rodeo team will prepare food in the kitchen at the Gene Bianchi Community Center to sell, as well.

The Cowboy Museum took over the event in the early 2000s from the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Serpa said, and regards it as an important outreach. “We can give back to our community, bringing Santa in and making the kids happy.”

The admission-free Cowboy Christmas Craft Show will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 25 and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave., Oakdale. For more, call 209-847-7049.

The Oakdale event often picks up festive folk headed through the city on their way to the Sonora Christmas Festival, held the same Saturday as well as Sunday. Here’s a brief look at other community events where you can find Christmas cheer this weekend and next:

Hughson Arts & Crafts Faire – Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 19-20: The city’s 20th Century Club’s annual event offers an array of handcrafted arts and crafts. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Hughson High School, 7419 E. Whitmore Ave. 209-874-5012.

Hometown Crafters Christmas Faire – 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 25 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 26. Local crafters will sell their wares at the Sonora Opera Hall, 250 S. Washington St., Sonora. 209-256-2576.

Sonora Christmas Festival – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 25-26 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 27: The 42nd annual festival features more than 150 craft artists, music, street performers, costumed elves, carolers, festival kitchens and bake shops. Adults $8; ages 13-18 $5; 6-12 $2; under age 6 free. Mother Lode County Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive.

Mod Shop Indie Crafters Market – 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 26: This fourth annual event will feature more than 70 vendors set up in businesses in downtown Modesto including Peer Recovery Art Project, Mod Spot, Concetta, Mira’s Bridal, Ralston’s Goat, Deva Cafe, Galletto, Mistlin Gallery, Preservation Coffee & Tea and Modesto Chamber of Commerce. There will be live street entertainment throughout the festival area, J Street, between 10th and I streets.

Riverbank Christmas Festival – Noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 26: A craft fair with many handmade items will be held before and after the city’s 5:30 p.m. holiday parade. A tree-lighting ceremony with Santa Claus follows the fair. Downtown Riverbank, 6707 Third St. 209-863-7122.

Turlock Festival of Lights – 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 25: Turlock’s annual celebration offers holiday lights, entertainment and shopping. Entertainment will be at Central Park with local vendors throughout downtown businesses. A new Santa’s Village also will be set up in Central Park and activities for children will be spread throughout downtown. A community carol begins at 5:30 p.m. The event ends with the Central Park Christmas tree lighting.