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Dancing horses, ponies and barbecues, oh my!
The Banda Monte Verdes souzaphone player, his instrument reflecting the red, white and blue of the giant American flag behind him, plays a lively mariachi number while the horses danced on the street during Valentine Constructions pre-Fourth of July extravaganza Saturday. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Mr. Winchester was one of the most photographed guests at the pre-Fourth of July block party at Oak Street.

With his flowing white mane and friendly demeanor, the miniature horse easily managed to steal the show even from his owners Mark and Melody Cruz of Manteca.

But Mr. Winchester had plenty of serious and equally photogenic competitors at the weekend “special event” hosted by Valentine Construction, located at the former Celpril on Oak Street which is just across the railroad tracks from Manteca’s downtown business district. Foremost of these attractions that offered plenty of Kodak moments for the young ones and their parents as well as grandparents were the half-dozen Spanish dancing horses from a ranch in French Camp. As if on cue, the maned equine attractions hoofed it up every time the Banda Monte Verde, a Mariachi band, started playing their lively music. The horses kept dancing as long as the music was playing.

After each jig, the horses took a bow to the delight of the audience.

In between the mariachi music, the cowboys made their horses available to the young visitors who were not afraid to ride on the high horses. The less adventuresome enjoyed a ride from Mr. Winchester and the other miniature horses.

The dancing horses performed on the cordoned off portion of Oak Street, between Vine and Park streets, with the historic Manteca Winery which is undergoing renovation and the old Manteca water tower on Wetmore Avenue for backdrop.

Other attractions at the pre-Fourth of July extravaganza were about a dozen booths offering various goods from purses and handmade jewelry to barbecued chicken and beef, fried taco salads, fresh watermelons and cherries, books, T-shirts, and juices. The old A. Bacilleri Manteca Winery was also open as a beer garden, with visitors limited to those who are over 21 years of age.

Officially opening the day-long celebration was the singing of the National Anthem by Debbie Long who, by popular request, also sang the Lee Greenwood patriotic song, “God Bless the USA."