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Electric Essence in Lodi

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Posted: Monday, November 29, 2010 2:33 pm

There's a scene in the dark comedy classic "Drop Dead Gorgeous" where the community of Mt. Rose, Minn., turns out to celebrate the winner of the local beauty pageant. They do it with a parade.

Miniature cars, people dressed as clowns and school marching bands meander down the Mayberry-esque streets to the delight of the citizenry. Though it's a fictional parade in a fictional town, it captures the essence of small-town life.

Lodi has its own annual community celebration known as the Parade of Lights. Come fair or foul weather, tens-of-thousands of people from Lodi and other cities far and wide line our downtown streets, as homemade floats roll through intersections and bands entertain the captivated crowds.

And, whether or not they know it, every attendee's attention is on art.

Countless hours are spent decorating and designing flatbed trailers, semi-trucks and other vehicles with all manner of materials and, of course, lights.

Each year's parade has a particular theme which gives entrants a direction to take when tackling their projects, and the more creative they get, the better their chances of winning the top spot in one of the parade's many categories.

This year's theme is "Sportin' the Holidays." Entries will need to, uh, sport an athletic motif. No doubt someone will build a football field. The interesting part will be seeing how they get it lit up.

One of my favorites, as I huddled with my missus among our fellow Lodians, was a couple years ago when the theme centered around beaches. My missus' workplace at the time entered a float. It was a flatbed truck made up to look like a surfer riding a wave.

What made it my favorite wasn't the end product. It was watching each stage of construction. Sheets of plywood were cut, painted and mounted on the flatbed as crew planned, bickered and built. They put their heart, soul and off-hours into finishing the float.

When those cars, trucks and various other vehicles wind their way throughout downtown Lodi, you'll not only see smiling faces pass by, but you'll see the creative dedication of a small town in action.

Come out on Thursday, December 2 starting at 6:17 p.m. to downtown Lodi to admire and appreciate this once-a-year spectacle.