I have an ongoing love-hate relationship with “the little village of Lodi,” as Paul Zimmerman referred to it regularly when writing about local events in the Lodi News-Sentinel while I was growing up here in the 1960’s and ’70’s.
Last night was our annual “Celebrate America” event at Hutchins Street Square. You couldn’t ask for a more patriotic, wholesome exemplification of the American spirit. Local residents and their guests gather on the lawn of the community center that literally rose from the ashes of our beloved former Lodi and, later, Tokay High School — the campus from which I graduated in 1974 — with their lawn chairs and picnic baskets. They wave flags, blow bubbles, toss around Frisbees and footballs, eat hot dogs and apple pie, gossip about each other, discuss the weather, and stand when the Knights of Columbus and Boy Scouts present the colors. Attendees jump to their feet and place their hand over their heart again when the Lodi Fire Department hoists a giant American flag from its ladder truck and the National Anthem is played.
The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. (Oscar Arias Sanchez)
The festivities kick off at 5:00 p.m. with an hour or so of music from the Lodi Community Band in which I have a great time playing my flute before joining my family and friends on the lawn to enjoy the rest of the evening’s events. We surrender the stage to a group of local women who tap dance in bedazzled shirts and culottes to “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow and a few other tunes from the same genre. The show is usually capped off with a performance by a military band from a nearby base. By the time the sun sets, we are en route back to the car with our folding chairs, ice chests, and other gear.
As I sat on the lawn last night surveying the crowd, I reflected on what it was like growing up in Lodi. My experiences could be described as quintessentially small-town American. I walked or rode my bike to the neighborhood school; participated in extra-curricular activities including band and choir; took piano lessons; worshiped in the local Lutheran congregation with my parents each Sunday;took swimming lessons; participated in summer band and the annual reading challenge sponsored by the public library; and stayed out of trouble. My late-teen and early-twenties rebellions were mild and short-lived.