VACAVILLE — Thirty years ago, Vacaville Reporter publisher Rich Rico bought a Christmas tree and decorations and had it put up at the end of Main Street to recreate a tradition the Fire Department had to welcome to holidays.
“Neither I nor anyone expected it to become such a great Vacaville tradition. It says a lot for the Vacaville community and I hope it will continue,” now-retired publisher Rico said Tuesday night as he wound his way through a growing crowd of Vacaville families that filled up Main Street to listen to live music, sip hot chocolate, eat holiday cookies and cheer on city leaders as they lit up this year’s 50-foot tree.
Main Street was packed all the way to Parker Street with people enjoying everything from the live Nativity scene in Town Square to short tours of the old City Hall.
Stephanie Marshall of Sharon’s Mobile Zoo was one of the small legion of people setting up venues for the evening, bringing in sheep, a miniature horse and a llama for the animals in the Nativity. While llamas were not part of the original Nativity, Marshall brightly pointed out that they are related to the camel, which were native to where Christ was born.
“I love this,” Marshall said. “It’s a great tradition for the family.”
The new owners of the theater on Main Street were on hand to give out cookies, talk about their plans for reviving the long-closed theater and film people who talked about their memories of the theater when it was open.
“We are letting everyone know that we are opening it up soon, hopefully by summer of 2013 as a live entertainment venue,” said Royce Farris, one of the co-owners. “So far we have had nothing put positive feedback, that people are glad that something is coming back to the theater.”
The evening’s entertainment included Mobility from the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West, The Honeybee Trio, Cheating Daylight and Holly Stell on the main stage in front of the tree, as well as a wide variety of churches, schools and community groups scattered throughout the downtown.
“I have made a tradition of coming down here for the music,” said Ruben Murillo. “My family loves this and there are few other places where you can spend such a nice evening.”
Janet Maynard said she and her sister have been coming up from Fairfield for the past decade, making a point of arriving early for dinner and then wandering throughout the downtown, and looking into the open merchants’ doors.
“It’s all very nice,” Maynard said. “Only parking is a challenge.”
Travis Air Force Base leadership made its appearance with 349th Air Mobility Wing commander Brig. Gen. John Flournoy, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander Col. John Klein and Col. Darren Sprunk of the 570th Contingency Response Group all thanking Vacaville residents for their support of the base and its service members, as well as wishing them holiday cheer.
“We cannot thank you enough for all the support you have given us,” Flournoy said.
Former Vacaville Mayor David Fleming shared the stage with current Mayor Steve Hardy. Fleming asked those present to take a moment to turn around and wish those near them a happy holidays.
“It is great to see everybody here and happy,” Hardy said.
He thanked residents for supporting the city’s two recent tax measures on the ballot, “that will allow us to go forward without making any more cuts,” he said.
Fairfield is next up Friday with its Old-Time Holiday Candlelight Caroling, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of Madison and Texas streets. The community Christmas tree will be lit once Santa arrives at 6:45 p.m.
The evening’s activities include a free train ride, live music performances, visits with Santa, face painting and a Candy Land Scavenger Hunt for children 13 years old and under. For more information, call 422-0103.
Suisun City will wrap up the week’s holiday festivities Saturday with its traditional Christmas at the Waterfront, which starts at noon at the Harbor Plaza with a holiday arts and crafts fair as well as live entertainment.
A lighted boat parade will begin at 5:15 p.m. It ends at the public dock where Santa will debark and make his way to the Harbor Square to light the community Christmas tree. There will also be a Christmas tree auction, rides and activities for children, a bonfire and pictures with Santa.
For more information about Christmas at the Waterfront, go to www.suisuncity.com.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.