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Light up the season
Lights & Sights of Ceres’ Christmas Tree Lane dazzles five decades of visitors

By day, Henry Avenue and Vaughn Street in Ceres look like any typical middle-class Valley neighborhood. By night during December, however, the streets are a veritable cornucopia of dazzling Christmas lights, sights and sounds.

The Ceres Tree Lane tradition, which started Dec. 10, 1961 and hasn’t skipped a beat for 53 years now, draws in cars and pedestrians from neighboring counties.

This year the conjoined streets will debut during the Dec. 6 Ceres Christmas Festival in nearby Smyrna Park. The show runs starts when it gets dark nightly until after Christmas.

Those who purchase homes on the thoroughfare are expected to be a part of the decorating and of the temperament to deal with lots of traffic for the month.

Jim Bower has participated in 40 of the 53 years of Christmas Tree Lane. His yard is best known for a familiar plywood train which he built and modeled after a grocery display he once spied as manager of the New Deal store in Modesto.

"It's part of our giving back to the community, the elderly and the kids," said Bower. "It's our way of saying 'Merry Christmas.' There's lots of good people who live on Christmas Tree Lane."

Each year Bower and his wife Sheila have lost items taken from the yard but it hasn't deterred their seasonal effort.

"We always have theft. Every year they get me for something. It's sad but you can't let one bad apple ruin the whole show."

Christmas Tree Lane is best accessed by taking either Hatch Road or Whitmore Avenue onto Moffet Road. A temporary green road sign will announce the starting point.

Turlock trains and Christmas Tree Lane

Turlock's Christmas Tree Lane has been an established source of reliable holiday glow for several years. Residents often inherit lights from previous owners and many families look forward to driving or walking by their favorite home each year. From snowmen families to angels and peppermint lollipops, Christmas Tree Lane does not disappoint the young at heart.

Christmas Tree Lane is located on Michael Way and Wellerman Way in Turlock. From Highway 99, take the Monte Vista Avenue exit and travel east for about 3 miles. Turn right onto Berkeley Avenue and then right again in about half a mile onto Michael Way.

Not too far from Christmas Tree Lane, Oxford Court has created a holiday stir for more than 20 years with its annual Christmas train. Suspended on an elevated train track structure that circles the court, the machine operated train travels by each of the houses that glow with lights and Christmas signs. Originally handmade by two neighbors who have since moved, the Oxford Court community has remained a consistent group over the years with the new comers happily joining in on the fun.

The Oxford Court crew has since expanded their efforts by using the traffic through the court to encourage donations to Turlock Together, a conglomerate of churches and businesses that collects donations for local families in need during the holidays. Oxford Court has signature Turlock Together blue barrel s at the end of the court where visitors can drop off donations. There is also an Angel Tree, a small lighted Christmas tree with ornaments that list children’s age and genders. Visitors can select an ornament and purchase a gift for that child in need which they can bring back to the blue barrels on Oxford Court.

The Christmas Train at Oxford Street runs from 6 to 9 p.m. 7 days a week through Dec. 25.

Oxford Court is located off W. Tuolumne Road in Turlock.