You know you’re a Lodian if you attended Field and Fair Days in the ’80s and ’90s. The annual event brought Lodi residents together on the lawns of Hutchins Street Square and encouraged everyone to connect as neighbors.
The days started with an early morning lift-off of hot air balloons, and concluded with worn-out children walking home, abuzz with excitement.
In the spirit of Field and Fair Day, the Hutchins Street Square Foundation has created Labor Day Lodi.
Field and Fair Day involved community members and volunteers participating together to put on a fun event on Labor Day weekend. There were fun events, and the everyone was excited for it every year, says John Ledbetter, Chairman of the Hutchins Street Square Foundation Board.
“That’s what we’re trying to revive here this year, only on a smaller scale,” Ledbetter said, adding that they are hoping the community turns out on Monday.
The day-long celebration includes live music, an art and wine showcase, local entertainment, a kid zone, Food Truck Alley and free carnival games. At 7 a.m., before the official celebration begins, the RE/MAX hot air balloon will take flight from the Square.
Labor Day Lodi is also a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Hutchins Street Square facility, which was built in 1913 as Lodi’s Union High School. Field and Fair Day was the annual fundraiser that helped reestablish Hutchins Street Square as a community center, with a partnership with the City of Lodi.
Winemaker Aaron Lange, now 34, remembers working Field and Fair Day with his family when he was just 6 or 7 years old.
“I got up at 4 a.m. and guarded the gates or picked up trash,” he said. “Everyone looked forward to it every year.”
His favorite part of the entire event was the hot-air balloon launch, when about 25 hot air balloons took off at daybreak from the park at the Square.
“Everyone in the community would come out and see it,” he said.
Since the park’s redwood trees are a lot taller now, the ceremonial launch will include the launch of one hot air balloon. Several attendees who won the raffle drawing at Thursday’s Downtown Lodi Farmers Market will get to ride the balloon on Labor Day.
Ledbetter is looking forward to the balloon launch because that is the piece of tradition longtime locals really remember. However, he is excited for new people to experience Lodi camaraderie and to learn what opportunities Hutchins Street Square can offers, from services to classes and entertainment.
Meghan Lange, who is married to Aaron Lange, is helping organize the event because she thinks it is important for her young children to feel connected to their town.
“I want to be able to pass a memory on,” she said.