Parades! Tree lightings! Festivals! Christmas arriving across Modesto, foothills

Turlock’s Festival of Lights celebration returns on Nov. 24.
Turlock’s Festival of Lights celebration returns on Nov. 24. Modesto Bee

Seems early to be thinking about Christmas events, right?

Turns out that’s wrong this year. An early Thanksgiving means an early kick off to all things yuletide, with a bevy of festivals, parades and other celebrations lighting up communities from Modesto to the Mother Lode beginning on Friday.

As always, Thanksgiving weekend heralds a host of holiday events, including the Sonora Christmas Festival and community celebrations in towns such as Riverbank, Gustine, Angels Camp and others. The fa-la-la really gets popping the following weekend, especially in Modesto when the entire day and evening is dedicated to finding your Christmas spirit.

Here’s a look at some of the community events planned in the area:

Turlock Festival of Lights – Nov. 24: Turlock’s annual celebration offers holiday lights, entertainment and shopping. Entertainment will be at Central Park with local vendors throughout downtown as well as activities for children. A new Santa’s Village also will be set up in Central Park. Festival is 5 to 8 p.m. with a community carol beginning around 5:45 p.m. and the city tree lighting at 6 p.m.

Cowboy Christmas Craft Show – Nov. 24-25: Oakdale Cowboy Museum holiday event with more than 40 booths western art, jewelry, apparel, cowboy grub and entertainment. Cowboy Santa arrives on horseback at 11 a.m. Saturday and will be available for photos. 5-8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Gene Bianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave., Oakdale. 209-847-7049.

Sonora Christmas Festival – Nov. 24-26: The 43rd annual festival features more than 150 craft artists, music, street performers, costumed elves, carolers, festival kitchens and bake shops. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Adults $8; ages 13-18 $5; 6-12 $2; under age 6 free. Mother Lode County Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora.

Riverbank Christmas Festival – Nov. 25: A craft fair with handmade items will be held noon to 8 p.m., before and after the city’s 5:30 p.m. holiday parade; the parade’s theme this year is “Jingle Bell Rock.” A tree-lighting ceremony with Santa Claus follows the parade. Downtown Riverbank, 6707 Third St. 209-863-7122.

Christmas in Angels Camp – Saturday, Nov. 25: This Mother Lode town welcomes the holidays with an open house and wine stroll through its historic downtown from 4 to 8 p.m. Merchants will be open and seven downtown businesses will have featured wineries located inside their store with wine available for tasting. At 5 p.m., the community’s 27th annual Lighted Christmas Parade will make its way through Downtown Historical Angels Camp.

Gustine’s Downtown Christmas – Saturday, Nov. 25: A host of events begins with a Breakfast with Santa at the GPS Hall from 8 to 11 a.m. before a craft fair on Fifth Street, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Santa’s Workshop will be up at 394 5th St. from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. as well as firetruck rides from 1 to 3 p.m. near the Antique Mall. The Christmas tree lighting and entertainment begins at 6 p.m. with a lighted parade right after the lighting. 209-854-6975.

Old-Fashioned Holiday at the Square – Nov. 25: Craft vendors, food, horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa and Mrs. Claus, live music and more will be offered from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The community also lights its holiday tree from 5 to 7 p.m. Copperopolis Town Square, 100 Town Square Road. 866-276-4235.

Mod Shop Indie Crafters Market – Nov. 25: Multiple vendors set up at participating downtown businesses including Deva Cafe, Concetta, Preservation Coffee & Tea, Peer Recovery, Mod Spot, Health Plan San Joaquin Community Room, Tresetti’s, Mistlin Gallery, Mira Bridal Couture and Ralston’s Goat. Live street entertainment. 5-9 p.m. J Street, between 10th and I streets, Modesto.

Christmas in the Country – Nov. 25: The 32nd annual event features artists and crafters, lunch for sale, a bake sale, raffles and more. Festivities are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mountain Ranch Community Hall, 8049 Washington St.

Turlock Downtown Christmas Parade – Dec. 1: The city’s 39th annual parade along historic Main Street beginning at Canal Drive begins at 6:30 p.m. with the theme “A Storybook Christmas.” Holiday music and vendors will be set up on Main Street before the parade starting at 4 p.m. and downtown stores will be open. 209-668-5594.

Murphys Open House – Dec. 1: An old-fashioned celebration in the foothills community features a holiday parade. Also planned are treats and local wines with musicians and carolers filling Main Street with sounds of the seasons. Santa arrives in the parade to light the tree and take photos with children. Free. 5-8 p.m.; parade begins at 5:30 p.m.

Lathrop Christmas Celebrations – Dec. 1 and Dec. 9: The city’s tree will be lit on Dec. 1 beginning at 6:30 p.m. with choirs performing at the Lathrop Community Building along with refreshments and a visit from the North Pole. On Dec. 9, a Breakfast with Santa begins at 9 a.m. for $10 before the Lathrop Christmas Parade will march starting at 5th and J streets beginning at 11 a.m. with the theme Sights and Sounds of Christmas. 209-941-7370.

Columbia Lamplight Tour – Dec. 1-2: Participants will be guided through the decorated town that transforms into a walking play of Christmas in the 1850s. Tours are every 15 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. Columbia State Historic Park. $25.

Nativity Festival – Dec. 1-3: More than 300 nativity scenes from around the world will be on display with musical presentations by local groups. There also will be a live broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at 7 p.m. on Sunday. Festival open 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 1; 3-8 p.m. Dec. 2-3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 731 El Vista Ave., Modesto. Free.

Dickens Faire – Dec. 2: Inside and outside McHenry Mansion, which will be decorated in Christmas splendor. Costumed carolers, street fair with crafts, Modesto farmers market. Horse-drawn wagon rides 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for $2-$3. Free festival runs 7 a.m.-3 p.m. McHenry Mansion, 906 15th St., Modesto, and outside down 15th Street.

Rockin’ Holiday and Celebration of Lights – Dec. 2: The annual Modesto holiday family friendly extravaganza continues after the Dickens Faire with the city’s holiday parade. The route runs through downtown beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of 14th and I streets. After, trees will be set aglow at Tenth Street Plaza. Then, stay for the kick off the ongoing Rockin’ Holiday at Tenth Street Plaza in December that will feature lights, garland, retro decorations, music, local vendors and music. A new Rockin’ Holidays tree will be lit at 7:30 p.m. and the Rockin’ Tree light show continues nightly from 6 to 11 p.m., with music Thursdays through Saturdays in December from 6 to 9 p.m. Call 209-577-5344 for the city events; see for Rockin’ Holiday.

Christmas Tree Lane Opens – Dec. 2: The region’s largest nightly neighborhood display kicks off again as Ceres sets it Christmas Tree Lane aglow. A festival at Smyrna Park on Moffett Road begins the night at 5:30 p.m. featuring pictures with Santa, refreshments and performances by local talent. At around 7 p.m., a march through the lighted neighborhood will feature school bands, dance groups and local dignitaries, with a special honor for the homeowners. Event is free; $1 for face painting or photos with Santa with proceeds going toward city-program scholarships. 209-538-5682.

Hughson Christmas Festival – Dec. 2: The Hughson Chamber of Commerce fetes the season with a boutique, a Santa’s Workshop for kids, entertainment and a tree lighting in Centennial Park that follows the annual a parade. Noon-7 p.m., parade 5:30 p.m. Free. Downtown Hughson. 209-883-0811.

Denair Christmas Tree Lighting – Dec. 2: Refreshments and pictures with Santa will be available at 6 p.m. with the tree lighting taking place at 6:30 p.m. outside Denair Gaslight Conservatory Theater, with refreshments, carols, Santa. 3908 N Gratton Road. Free.

Escalon Christmas on Main – Dec. 2: The annual Parade of Lights in downtown Escalon begins at 5:30 p.m. Before and after, a vendor fair will take place from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Main Street, Escalon. Free.

Lighted Christmas Parade and Gift Fair – Dec. 8: A gift fair with Christmas carols, entertainment, holiday goodies and more on Main Street begins at 5 p.m. with the lighting of the Court of Trees at 6:30 p.m. This year’s parade theme is “The Wonder of Christmas Morning” and begins 7 p.m. at Memorial Park.

Waterford on Ice – Dec. 9: Waterford’s fifth annual lighted parade with the theme “Snow Wars” begins at 5:30 p.m. at Moon Elementary School and ends at Waterford Junior High where cookies and photos with Santa will be available in the school gym. 209-874-2328.