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Family spirit on the spotlight

Christmas Tree Lighting draws large crowd at Stouffer Park

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Family spirit on the spotlight

Isabella Wilkins smiles during a conversation with a classmate while the Community Christmas Tree looms in the background.

JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin


POSTED November 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.

RIPON – Raymond Perez had an extra special reason to appreciate the time that he has been spending with his daughter and her family over the last month.

Hurricane Sandy.

The Passaic County, New Jersey, native has been out in Ripon ever since the storm hit and decimated portions of the Eastern seaboard – including extensive damage to the Jersey Shore and inland portions along rivers that surged.

But that was the farthest thing from his mind Monday night when he saw hundreds of people gathered in Stouffer Park for Ripon’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony – marveling at the family-friendly atmosphere of the event and the general friendliness of those that that flocked to the new location.

“I think that it’s fantastic,” said Perez – who will go back home next week and then take off to enjoy Christmas in the Caribbean five days later. “It’s very well organized and well kept and it’s nice to see all of the families with their kids. I’m retired now so I get to come out and enjoy things like this.”

Traditionally held at the Mistlin Fountain just off of Highway 99, organizers opted to move the widely popular gathering to Stouffer Park to allow more people to attend and alleviate the parking problems that the residential location presented.

They moved it, and they came.

Half an hour before the event was scheduled to begin, the parking lot on-site was already full and people were already parking out along Manley Road and walking into the grassy location around the tree.

John Mangelos of the Barnwood Restaurant was once again on hand to distribute complimentary hot chocolate and cookies to the community.

And while it was her first time seeing the response from the community during the holidays, new Ripon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebecca Naranjo made sure that everything went off without a hitch – relying on help from her small staff and members of her Board of Directors.

“I think that it’s awesome to see the turnout that we have tonight,” she said. “Especially after moving to a new location like we did. I think that people have room now to spread out a little bit and that adds something to the experience.

“Personally I love the Christmas spirit – the chance to spend time with family and friends and get to see that sense of community that we enjoy here in Ripon.

There wasn’t a chance that Andrea Hollingsworth was going to miss the event with her son being part of the Ripon High School Choir – which performed three holiday songs for the people in attendance to reinforce the spirit of the season.

Her family, she said, comes out to as many community functions as possible.

But the one Monday was special because it ushers in the holiday spirit and, she believes, brings everybody together during a time of year when that’s most important.

“Something like this gives you the chance to get to see people that you don’t see very often,” she said. “I love it. And there’s such a nice turnout here.

“It’s such a family-oriented event and that goes right along with what this community is all about. We moved here 20 years ago and raised our kids here specifically for that purpose. It’s on display here tonight.”

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