As Lodi gets dark Thursday evening, more than 80 floats will light up the sky in the city's eighth-annual Parade of Lights.
The parade offers a little bit of everything, from eight huge Clydesdale horses to marching bands to a fire truck carrying Santa. Each parade entry is different, but they all have two things in common: They're all lit, and they all use a "Joy to the World" theme.
"Every year, the parade has a different theme. This year, we chose 'Joy to the World' because we thought the world could use some joy," said Cynthia Haynes, Community Promotions Coordinator for the city.
Eight years ago, Haynes had seen success with a similar parade in Auburn, so she brought the idea to Lodi. She organized the first Parade of Lights, and has watched it grow and expand since then.
Last year, more than 35,000 people lined the streets of downtown Lodi, some standing 11 layers deep, she said. People staked out spots earlier in the day, then returned later to watch the parade and enjoy food from local eateries.
Haynes expects at least that many people to attend the parade this year, rain or shine. While rain threatened last year's parade, that didn't keep people away.
"I was on the very last float last year, and as the parade came to an end, the mist came. Within five minutes, the downpour began," she said.
The holiday celebration begins at 5:25 p.m. in front of City Hall, 221 West Pine Street. Lodi High School Freshman Brandy Vaughn will sing "I Hope You Dance" while a 69-foot tree is lit. The first 200 children will receive free light-up bracelets, Haynes said, and a bell choir will also perform.
At 6:17 p.m., the parade will start, with Grand Marshall Bob Wheeler, general manager of the General Mills plant in Lodi, leading the way. He will be accompanied by retired KCRA 3 news anchor Stan Atkinson, who is serving at this year's master of ceremonies.
The parade consists of all sorts of floats, and each one is lit by a generator, battery-powered lights, light sticks or glow-in-the dark paint, according to parade rules, Haynes said.
At the end of the parade, which lasts for about an hour and 15 minutes, awards will be given in various categories, including antique vehicle, walking group, mounted, and the ultimate, Best of Show.
While the highlight of this year's show may be the Budweiser Clydesdales - which, combined with their wagon, weigh a total of 12 tons - other floats are also expected to create a sensation, Haynes said.
A Coca-Cola truck will give out six-packs of Coke, and the last float in the parade will be a fire truck carrying Santa. No other Santas are allowed in the parade, though 'Santa's helpers' are permitted, Haynes said.
Downtown streets will begin closing at 4 p.m., and parade organizers have encouraged people to arrive early and dress warmly. Many local businesses will offer food and drinks, and parking with free shuttles will also be provided, Haynes said.
In addition, buses for handicapped people who cannot stay out in the cold will be available, she said.
For more information, call Cynthia Haynes at 333-6801.
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