LATHROP – The Lathrop Community Center was standing room only. The sea of faces, many of them multigenerational families led by grandparents, were all smiling for a good reason.
The large happy gathering was there to share the joy of the official kick-off of the Christmas holiday season in the form of the annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at Valverde Park.
Starting off the celebration was a nearly hour-long entertainment program inside the Community Center with Mayor Kristy Sayles reading the famous Christmas poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Bleachers and chairs in the gym were packed with family and friends who came to watch and listen to one of the largest gatherings of local entertainers ever staged at the community center. Both the choir and band of Lathrop Elementary School were there with the musicians in their best performance attires. The Lathrop School Choir directed by director Michael Mulidor entertained the excited audience with three upbeat holiday melodies – “Do You Believe in Magic?” “It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas,” and “Up on the Housetop.”
Their performance was followed by toe-tapping numbers from the Lathrop High School Choir and Band with such music pieces as “Let it Snow!” “A Holly Jolly Christmas’ and “Sleigh Ride.” The Lathrop Area Music Program then joined the high school band and choir in “A Christmas Pop Sing-Along.”
Leading the high school groups were choir director Elizabeth VanEerde and band director Desiree Bugarin. Coordinating the Manteca Youth Focus entertainers was Anna Candelaria.
Members of the Manteca Youth Focus were also on hand to provide entertainment after the official lighting of the Community Christmas Tree just outside of the community center. Additional entertainment was provided by the Lathrop Youth Focus. The group also continued their annual tradition of selling decorated mistletoes as part of their fund-raiser.
While refreshments were being served by the Youth Focus volunteers, another snaking long line on the other side of the gym was moving slowly but surely to the corner where Santa had his picture taken with the children after presenting them with gifts.
New this year in the holiday refreshments offered to the revelers were the scrumptious chocolates donated for the occasion by Ghirardelli Chocolate factory in Lathrop. Representing the chocolate company was Lathrop Ghirardelli manager Kara Harmon.
Lathrop’s holiday celebration will reach another crescendo next week when the annual Christmas parade will be held. That Festival of Lights parade is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, starting at 5 p.m. starting at Fifth Street in Historic Downtown Lathrop.
The Christmas parade will be led by this year’s parade marshals Ron and Susan Dell’Osso of Dell’Osso Farms.