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Ripon families gather for traditional start of Christmas
The crowd that gathered in the plaza behind the Mistlin Fountain takes pictures of the community Christmas tree after it was lit Monday night. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

RIPON – Taylor Ray loves tradition.

And that’s a very good thing given her title as Miss Ripon. She’s exposed to pomp and circumstance on a regular basis, and takes it in stride – relishing the small town feel and the unique nature of the community that she has come to love and call home.

That’s why she was both honored and excited to flip the switch to light the community Christmas tree at the plaza behind the Mistlin Fountain Monday night.

“There’s just something about the tradition – maybe it’s because everybody comes out and is so supportive,” she said. “I love Christmas because it’s all about family, and all of my family is here. I think that goes back to the tradition thing right there – that’s what this is all about for me, and I just love it.”

More than a hundred gathered in the community plaza Monday night for what has become a full-fledged tradition in Ripon – a place where families of all sizes gather for a brief ceremony before watching the enormous tree, which required assistance from the firefighters to decorate, light up to signify the start of the Christmas season.

Barnwood Restaurant and Catering Company owner John Mangelos was on hand to serve complimentary hot chocolate and cookies, and residents like Sue Yeoman packed in and waited for a local glimpse of holiday cheer.

“Events like this bring out the sense of community here – it’s a lovely community and we’re glad to be a part of it,” said Yeoman. “Christmas to me is all about family mostly – decorations and cards and spending time with our sons and our grandchildren.”

But the event was also a chance for families to just come out and have a good time in a community atmosphere.

Mickey Mouse was there donning a Santa costume for those who wanted a picture with Disney’s most recognizable character, and the tree itself became the center of attraction for many of the kids once the switch got flipped.

Jay Sullivan – who was there with his wife and children AJ, Andrea and Alicia – said it’s something to look forward to.

“I think that it’s a neat thing for the community and the residents to have. It’s a good place for somebody that’s still relatively new to the community to come meet people,” said Sullivan who is going on his third Christmas as a Ripon resident. “It’s a small, tight-knit family community and I enjoy being a part of it, and events like this are a big reason.”