From the festive sounds inside to the flurry of activity outside, the annual Cowboy Christmas at the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale was once again a huge success.
Organizers of this 20th annual event pointed to good weather, a wide variety of vendors and the traditional arrival of Santa on horseback as helping bring a large crowd to the festivities.
Booths opened on Friday evening for a few hours, but the bulk of the business came on Saturday, with everything from homemade cherry jelly to blinged out purses, Western artwork to books available from vendors. There were nearly as many vendors outside in the Oakdale Town Plaza as there were inside the community center and shoppers on Saturday had good weather to peruse the many outdoor booths. Santa arrived shortly after 11 a.m., with children eager for a peek and parents wielding cameras to capture the scene. After riding in, Santa gave youngsters the chance to pet his horse, Little Girl, before he took his seat in the big chair and heard holiday wishes from children as well as posed for photos with them.
Oakdale resident Mia Alcala was pleased at the variety of items offered for sale at the event, pausing to do some taste testing at the Homestead Favorites booth out of Linden.
“This is my first year to come,” Alcala said. “It’s cute, we got to see Santa and now I’m just looking at what kind of crafts are here.”
She also was enjoying the samples of cherry jelly and cherry pepper jelly.
Cherries used in the products are grown on a family ranch in Linden, with Charlyn Hulsman turning her hobby into a business.
“I used to make it for family and friends,” she said, adding that they encouraged her to branch out and sell her products. A retired schoolteacher, Hulsman said it proved to be a good fit.
“I missed that interaction with people and I enjoy meeting with people on a positive note,” she said of traveling to various fairs and boutiques with her products.
Members of the Oakdale High School Rodeo Club took over the kitchen at the community center to serve up a variety of food, from sandwiches to clam chowder, to feed the shoppers, using it as a fundraiser for their organization.
Put on the last several years through the Oakdale Cowboy Museum, Executive Director Christie Camarillo said people seemed to be enjoying the ‘shirt sleeve weather’ for a late November day and though the start was a little slow on Saturday, she was happy that the pace picked up as the day wore on.
“It’s good,” she said, smiling.
Cowboy Toffee Company was represented inside the center, with co-founder Samantha McGinnis serving up samples of the homemade local confection.
“I love watching their faces when they put it in their mouths,” she said of patrons thoroughly enjoying the toffee. “We were outside last year, this year we moved inside.
“I want to make Oakdale famous one box at a time.”
Making the trip to the Cowboy Christmas with his grandmother, who was running a booth, 11-year-old Cody Rose also had marshmallow shooters for sale, mini marshmallows serving as the ‘ammunition’ for the guns fashioned out of plastic pipe. He was taking orders by early Saturday afternoon, having sold out of those he brought with him.
Elsewhere, booths featured woodworking items, sculptures, painting, books, blankets, jewelry, candles, offering a variety of gift-giving ideas for holiday shoppers.
And even as Black Friday drew bargain hunters to the larger retail outlets, the observance of Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24 saw patrons supporting the local, small scale vendors while purchasing their items.