Longtime Lodians might remember waking up on Sept. 1 to see the sky filled with massive hot air balloons. The spectacle was the early morning kickoff for Field and Fair Day, an annual fundraiser for the Hutchins Street Square Foundation. It was absent for 15 years, but is making an enthusiastic return this year on Labor Day.
“People have a lot of memories associated with building support for the Square,” said Meghan Lange, who is organizing the event. “It’s a family based event open to all of Lodi, and it’s a great tradition for kids.
The event is really a hallmark of the Square’s history. Originally, the site was home to Lodi Union High School, built in 1913. But the school burned down in 1974, and the Lodi Unified School District decided to move the high schools to other sites in Lodi. The city of Lodi bought the land in 1979 for $475,000, and local leaders made a pledge to build a community center. Field and Fair Day began in 1980 as part of a string of fundraisers to pay for the Square’s construction.
There were hot air balloon launches in the morning, a pancake breakfast and carnival games for kids all day long.
That tradition held on for 17 years. After 1997, however, interest in the event lapsed and the tradition was abandoned.
Last year, the spirit of Field and Fair Day was resurrected as Labor Day Lodi, one of several events at the Square celebrating 100 years since the original school was built.
“There was a great response, and people wanted it to return this year,” said Lange. “But there were two requests: Call it Field and Fair Day, and bring back the pancake breakfast.”
That’s the plan for Monday, Sept. 1. Bring the kids out for a footrace, water balloon toss and an obstacle course run by the Lodi Fire Department. Enjoy a pancake breakfast in the morning in Kirst Hall. There will be martial arts and science demonstrations on the south lawn, as well as live entertainment. Most of the action tales place on the South Lawn and in the Wishek Amphitheater. Grab a snack at one of the food trucks and enjoy popcorn and funnel cakes along with beer and wine.
The hot air balloons are back, too, but on a smaller scale.
“The trees have grown since then, so there’s less room to launch balloons,” said Lange. ReMax has loaned their balloon for the occasion, which will launch at 6:30 a.m. on the West Lawn with two raffle winners on board.
Proceeds of the event will go to support the Foundation.