I love when our town turns into a Hallmark movie.
Now 22 years later and 12,000 people more than when I unpacked my first moving box, some things have actually gotten better.
As most of us know, there are many things about the 95361 which make it unique and while I’ll be the first to admit the growth can be a bit daunting, we’ve somehow managed to maintain the “small town charm” which is highlighted best at certain times of the year.
This past summer, a new episode of our Hallmark series was added as the Oakdale Morning Market was launched. The “old home” feeling which many of us experienced annually the first Saturday of each December was now apparent every Saturday morning for a good stretch of weeks.
For those unfamiliar with the event I speak of, the first Saturday of each December, I’m sorry you missed it. First started by my dear friend Gwen Schmitt, her business partner Jeanette Lawrence (formerly of the Empty Nest) and a few other downtown business owners in 2008 Old Fashioned Christmas was launched.
While we all now know it as Oakdale’s Downtown Christmas, thanks largely in part to the team at Foxy Designs, the tradition remains the same. For the majority of the day North Third Avenue is blocked off and filled with vendors, shoppers and the like to welcome in the Christmas season.
Remembering back 15 years to when my then littles would wait patiently in line with a can of food for a wagon ride with Santa Claus and the late Lloyd Stueve leading the horses, it was magical.
Now 15 years later, while the wagon rides have been properly retired, the parade has been added and the vendors have showed up in a big way.
Last Saturday evening, as we walked through town following the parade, one couldn’t help but be overcome with Christmas joy. The streets from Second to Third full of people bundled up, laughing, hugging, simply pure joy was everywhere.
Then came the tree lighting. A first of its kind that many of us could remember. As we made our way from Third to Wood Park, I was simply astounded by the number of people filling the park in the center of town … more Hallmark.
Meandering through the people, work mode set in, as I found the organizers to make proper introductions as well as openly marvel at the impressive turnout.
While the return of the individual trees was a tradition we were all happy to see return, the lighting of the big tree in the center of the park was something new for all of us. As the ceremony began the question was posed if anyone could recall the last time that tree was lit … complete silence.
Later when speaking with a friend, she shared that the generous people of Community Hospice (the official tree lighters) were astounded by the turn out of people for this inaugural event. Together we chuckled, once again recognizing the uniqueness of Oakdale.
Awaiting the tree lighting at the edge of the light tunnel (another new addition), I couldn’t help but feel extreme joy. Looking for the perfect shot of a lit tree (there’s no such thing), to the right of me children, couples and families marveled as they walked through the tunnel of lights. Many stopping for photos, taking video or simply just admiring the beauty; again, more Hallmark.
Later that night, just before heading home we couldn’t help but grab some guilty pleasure treats and reflect upon the night.
“You know, I’ve kind of been in a funk,” a dear friend said. “Tonight is the first night I feel like it’s Christmas. This is really awesome.”
And that’s how the Hallmark movie ends. A night which came through great effort of business owners, community groups and volunteers which ends with people leaving not just with packages but the true spirit of Christmas. Thank you all.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.