Festival of Trees makes December perfect time to visit San Joaquin Historical Museum!

Anytime is a fine time to visit our county’s historical museum in Micke Grove Park near Lodi, but December is the “put it on your calendar” time! In December, the museum complex comes alive with both Christmas cheer and the stunning Festival of Trees!

A decorated tree stands in the historic Calaveras School building for the festival.

Featuring more than three-score beautifully decorated unique Christmas trees, the San Joaquin Historical Museum’s 25th annual Festival of Trees is Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the museum (located in Micke Grove Park, south of Lodi a mile west of Highway 99 and just south of Armstrong Road).

Visitors will be greeted by docents in vintage Victorian and pioneer clothes, lending to the air that guests have stepped back in time to celebrate Christmas! The museum’s exhibit buildings will overflow with scores of festive trees, each decorated according to a unique theme by different individuals and groups from throughout San Joaquin County.

The museum’s Christi Weybrecht shares, “It’s a step back in time to walk onto the festive museum grounds with historic buildings, displays and docents dressed in vintage Victorian and pioneer clothes. The museum’s eight exhibit buildings will be brimming with more than 60 festive trees, each decorated according to a unique theme by different individuals and groups from throughout San Joaquin County.

Museum docent and young guest make pioneer dolls two years ago at the festival.

The festival also features charming Christmas exhibits, entertainment and food for purchase. There will be many special things to see including demonstrations of woodturning a child’s toy and an extensive model train layout with the Polar Express theme for viewing. Vendors will be on hand to sell unique handcrafted items, and docents will sell a variety of handcrafted wares in the Docent Boutique.

For children, there will be many hands-on activities including decorating cookies, making rag dolls, dipped candles, punched tin ornaments and other crafts. There is a nominal fee of $1 to $3 to make the crafts. Children also will be able to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, and families can purchase photographs of their children with Santa”. Entertainment fills both days; food and drink will be available for purchase.

Museum docents prepare holiday decorations for the festival.

In addition to all the holiday festivities and decorated trees, visitors will enjoy the museum’s diverse historical exhibits. A year ago, the museum expanded its Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years. The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, with very rich cultures and lifestyles. They put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California.

Museum executive director Dave Stuart notes, “Native people are such an important part of our County history that we expanded the exhibit space and now tell their stories in an up-to-date way; we added videos showing traditional basket making, acorn preparation, and deer hunting—we hope folks will associate artifacts displayed in the exhibit cases with those shown in the videos.”

The "trackless train" takes visitors through museum grounds at last year's festival.

The Native Peoples Gallery showcases a circular high-tech wooden bench; with the push of a button, visitors can listen to recorded messages. In one recording Glen Villa, Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording is of a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts). A third tells of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and County were named.

The new exhibit offers hands-on activity for younger visitors and a large mural of an Indian man and woman bedside a lush riverside. “The new exhibits work perfectly with the other exhibits,” said Stuart. “Visitors can follow the Native peoples, to early trappers and founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to the early American settlers, then to exhibits on the Gold Rush and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

The history and evolution of wine grapes and wine-making is also featured. Stuart suggests, “For a starting point on history of the Lodi-Woodbridge winegrape appellation, stop at our Tree and Vine Building, with a host of displays of historic wine-making equipment.  The museum preserves a remnant of William Micke’s 1922 Flame Tokay vineyard; Tokay grapes dominated the area into the 1950s and were used as table grapes and for making brandy and even some wine”.

Young visitors admire old farm truck loaded with historic fruit crates.

Also featured is an historic Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) rail car which transported iced produce to distant markets like the east coast. During prohibition in the 1920s the shipments of wine grapes actually increased as home vintners bought grapes with which to make their own wine for home consumption. Visitors can also enjoy the museum’s new Innovations in Agriculture exhibit in the Cortopassi/Avansino Building, with one of the largest collections of tractors, agriculture equipment and tools west of the Mississippi (kids will love them).

For more information: General admission tickets are $10 and $1 for children 2 to 12 years old. Children under 2 are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Music Box, 101 E. Lodi Ave. in Lodi, the Music Go-Round, 944 W. Robinhood Dr. in Stockton, or by calling the museum at (209) 331-2055. With advance tickets, the $6 parking fee into Micke Grove Park is waived. Tickets also may be purchased at the event. For more insight, call the museum at (209) 331-2055 or (209) 953-3460 or see www.sanjoaquinhistory.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

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