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Manteca twilight parade magic in downtown Dec. 7
209 Manteca parade 1
Santa will arrive in Manteca aboard an antique fire engine.BOTTOM PHOTO:The twilight parade has an international flare. - photo by HIME ROMERO/209 file photos

Is there a Santa Claus?

Ask any one of the thousands of kids who will line Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca on Saturday evening (Dec. 7) bundled up against the 45-degree chill. They know the answer.

The bright lights of 100 plus entries in the Manteca Chamber of Commerce twilight Christmas parade that starts at 5 p.m. will dance in their eyes. The smiles and exclamations will pale though in comparison for those waiting for the guy who will bring up the rear of the procession — Santa Claus himself.

 From the response he’ll get, you’ll probably think he was one of the Fab Four who had just landed in New York City on Feb. 7, 1964 to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Santa is just part of the lure that brings upwards of 8,000 people downtown to line curbs and sidewalks alike for the annual parade.

Where else can you find thousands of kids — little and big — parading down the street spreading holiday cheer?

It is cool to be an eighth grader playing in the band while wearing a blinking red Rudolph noose.

It is sweet to be a business owner who has spent the last few days cobbling together a huge gingerbread house complete with hundreds of bright Christmas lights so they can pull it down Yosemite Avenue to the delight of thousands.

It is a blast to be a big kid maneuvering your power wheelchair decked out with angels and holly — plus Christmas lights — from the railroad tracks to Garfield Avenue.

And it is heartwarming to watch one and all sing, march, play music, cart wheel, ride a horse or simply drive down the street and wave while thousands upon thousands of holiday lights lit the way.

By comparison the electric light parade down Main Street at Disneyland is — there’s no delicate way to put this — Mickey Mouse.

Sure, Disney Inc. can put on a professional and seemingly perfect show. But who’d trade that for seeing a dozens upon dozens of young girls from Dance and Cheer Stars decked out in yellow hoodies and Santa hats spreading cheer as they moved to the music of the season? You can almost hear them giggling as they practiced their routine in the days leading up to Saturday.

Manteca’s twilight Christmas parade magic will include JROTC cadets, Manteca Youth Focus titleholders, church groups, Scouts, and more.

Mickey Mouse, when he makes his appearance during his parades, may trigger excitement down at Disneyland. But he can never match the wide-eyed wonder and glow on a 5-year-old’s cheeks as she jumps up and down pointing to the lead fire engine at the parade’s rear as she practically shouts, “Mommy! Mommy! Look its Santa Claus!”

The most magical place on earth this Saturday evening won’t be in Anaheim. It will be along Yosemite Avenue in downtown Manteca.

Other upcoming Manteca Christmas events include:

•MRPS HOLIDAY BOUTIQUE:  Manteca-Ripon Pentecost Society will be hosting the  Holiday Boutique from Dec. 6 through 8. The annual event consisting of a variety holiday idea gifts will take place at the MRPS Hall, 133 N. Grant St. in Manteca. Cost is $125 for all three days. The Holiday Boutique is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7 (in conjunction with holiday parade); and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8. For more information, call 209-239-4222 or 209-679-03

•BREAKFAST WITH SANTA: All are invited to Manteca Presbyterian Church, North and Main streets, to share a pancake breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus is Saturday, Dec. 7, from 8 to 11 a.m. Pictures with Santa and holiday items will be available for purchase. Breakfast is $5 for adults and $3 for children while those 6 and under are free.

• MANTECA HIGH TREE SALES: Manteca High School will be hosting its annual Christmas Tree Lot is Saturday, Dec. 7, from 8 a.m. until noon.  Pre-orders for trees are also being accepted by contacting Dave Smith at 858-7349.  All proceeds benefit MHS athletic programs. The Jeff Gaines Student store will also be open for holiday shopping.  Stop by for sweatshirts, jackets, hats and other MHS gear.

•MUSEUM HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE: The Manteca Museum open house is on Sunday, Dec. 8, at from 1 to 4 p.m. at 450 W. Yosemite Ave.

•MANTECA COMMUNITY CHOIR CHRISTMAS CANTATA: The Manteca Community Choir Christmas Cantata is Sunday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Manteca Presbyterian Church, North and Main. For more information call Anne Talcott at 480-1440.

•SOROPTIMIST HOLIDAY AFFAIR: The Manteca Soroptimists’ 34th Annual Holiday Affair takes place at the Bank of Stockton, 660 N. Main St., Manteca, on Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The $75 ticket holder and guest enjoy a complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres reception along with a chance for many prizes.  Tickets are available at Tipton’s Stationery & Gifts, 169 W. Yosemite, 823-7644. You may also contact Connie Meintasis at 823-5828, Danette Jarred at 601-4446 or any other Soroptimist member.