GUSTINE - The community will ring in the holiday season Saturday, Nov. 28, but the annual downtown Christmas celebration will be scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A takeout community breakfast, craft fair, Christmas tree auction and virtual tree-lighting ceremony will be held.
There will be no gathering at the Christmas tree lighting or lighted Christmas parade this year due to the pandemic, organizers announced.
The day will start with a hearty breakfast organized by community members, said Chandra Brace, but rather than a traditional sit-down meal the breakfast will be takeout only. Meals will be distributed from 8-11 a.m. in the alley adjacent to the Gustine Pentecost Hall.
“We are set to serve 600 breakfasts,” said Brace. “We will do all drive-through (meal distribution).”
Pancakes, eggs, sausage, milk and juice will be served. The community breakfast is offered free of charge, but donations are accepted.
Brace said the event will include a station at which Santa Claus will be available for socially-distanced photos with children and families, who will remain in their vehicles. Letters to Santa may also be dropped off.
The breakfast traces its roots to the early 1990s, when Brace’s grandparents Dick and Mary Ford started the event as a thank you from the business community. That was the start of what would become a full day of Christmas festivities celebrated each year in Gustine on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Brace said organizers were determined to hold the breakfast in some format despite the pandemic.
“Covid is not taking this one,” she declared. “We were determined to make it happen. There have been so many things canceled and taken away, we wanted to do everything in our power to make this happen. We will have a modified version of breakfast with Santa.”
Kitchen staff and serving volunteers will be limited in number and will be following safety guidelines, Brace noted.
Craft fair, virtual
The Chamber of Commerce is organizing a downtown craft fair that will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., said chamber President Debbie Goularte.
The street will be closed to traffic so vendors can spread out in the downtown area, she explained.
Pandemic guidelines allow the craft fair to take place, she said, but not the standard tree-lighting and parade.
“With the craft fair people are wandering and walking. With a parade people are gathering. We have to stay away from anything in which people are gathering,” Goularte explained.
Vanessa Rogers, a chamber director and event organizer, said she hopes to have 30 or more vendors on hand for the craft fair.
In addition to the craft vendors, she noted, Cornerstone Dance will be handing out grab-and-go holiday craft kits as an alternative to its traditional Santa’s Workshop.
The Chamber of Commerce will also host a silent auction of about two dozen Christmas trees that have been decorated and donated by local sponsors. The auction opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. Trees will be on display at Cornerstone Dance. Bids may be submitted on the chamber Facebook page or by calling Yvette Martin, 209-595-5357.
Those attending are asked to follow safety guidelines by wearing a facial covering and social distancing.
The virtual tree-lighting will be held at 6 p.m. and may be viewed live on the chamber’s Facebook page. Mayor Pat Nagy will offer brief remarks before the lighting. Community members are asked not to gather at the tree, Rogers told Mattos Newspapers.
Goularte said chamber leaders are striving to make the best of the situation as they continue a long-standing Gustine tradition which is enjoyed by the West Side as a whole.
“Our traditions are very important,” she commented. “If we can find a way to keep them going we will do that.”