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Joni Morris charms fans at Movies in the Park
Joni Morris makes her way into the audience while performing during the second installment of Movies in the Park Saturday at Woodward Park. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Joni Morris had more than a few fans waiting for her to step out on stage Saturday night at Woodward Park.

And the Stockton-based country performer – who reduced her normal appearance fee when she found out that the event would be a free evening where families and neighbors are encouraged to attend – didn’t keep her fans waiting long before she entertained them with the popular songs of Patsy Cline and Connie Francis as well as a few of her own.

Morris didn’t waste any time before she stepped off stage and headed out into the crowd where she would spend most of the night – weaving in and out of the rows of people and their lawn chairs.

According to DeCristo Productions founder Fred White, just seeing families in the audience reinforces why he decided to initially start the free Movies in the Park program three years ago.

“For me it’s all about seeing parents sitting out there with their kids – not in front of a 40-inch plasma screen in the living room, and with kids sitting inside glued to their video games,” White said. “People can come down here, where the kids are safe, and enjoy some traditional entertainment.

“We’re trying to bring back the feel of the drive-in movie theater – that’s why we have kind of the concession stands off to the side and the playground equipment for the kids to play on. It’s all about families.”

After Morris’ performance – which usually cost those in attendance anywhere for $20 to $50 in ticket fees – and the sun set low enough to allow for the two massive movie screens that White built to be fully utilized, the gathered masses enjoyed the John Travolta and Robin Williams vehicle “Old Dogs.”

Just relaxing with his family was enough for 16-year-old Adam Rice, who waited patiently for the movie to begin.

“I think that it’s good when the community comes together for things like this,” Rice said. “It’s a good chance to relax, and a good chance for families to enjoy time together.”

The next two Movies in the Park are set for Northgate Park starting each night at 7 p.m.

Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side” is the July 24 movie that follows live music by “We are Family” at Northgate Park.

The July 31 movie at Northgate Park is Jackie Chan’s “The Spy Next Door.” Prior to that, the “Name that Song” game show takes place.

Those attending are encouraged to bring blankets or lawn chairs to the event being staged by DeCristo Productions. Helping offset expenses are sponsors Phil Waterford’s Manteca Ford, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and Bill Broughton Farmers Insurance.

Dedicated segments to various Manteca non-profits including videos produced by DeCristo Productions will be presented. Organizations being featured are the Manteca Boys & Girls Club, Manteca Unified Student Trust, Give Every Child a Chance, Agape Villages family services, and Second Harvest Food Bank.

Those attending the Movies in the Park are not permitted to bring alcoholic beverages as coolers and bags may be checked.

Leashed dogs are welcome in designated areas with some restrictions applying.

Children under 16 must have adult supervision.

DeCristo Productions has staged outdoor movie presentations for a fee for apartment complexes and other gatherings. More information is available by calling 922-2673.