For the first time, Lodi residents will have the opportunity to participate in a fun run where they wear antlers, don Christmas sweaters and string Christmas lights around their clothes before the 17th annual Parade of Lights.
The new Reindeer Run and the annual parade will take place on Thursday. The theme for this year's parade is "Miracle on School Street — Honoring Hometown Businesses."
Registration for the Reindeer Run is $5, and it will be open from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Lodi Public Library Community Room, 201 W. Locust St. The course is a 0.85-mile loop around Downtown.
The Reindeer Run will start at 6 p.m., and there is a division for "reindeer teams," which are groups of eight to 10 runners wearing antlers and harnessed together. The Lodi Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department is sponsoring the new race.
Starting at 6:17 p.m., the Parade of Lights will begin, and spectators will be able to enjoy countless lights, floats, marching bands, dance groups and themed vehicles.
The parade route begins at Church and Locust streets and attracts thousands of viewers along the way.
The grand marshal of the parade will be Vern Weigum, owner of Weigum's Lodi Nursery. His parents, Herb and Bertha Weigum, opened the nursery in 1948 on Lockeford Street and then it moved to its current location in 1956.
Vern Weigum started mowing yards and working for his parents when he was 10 and then took over the business full-time in 1982, after retiring from General Mills.
"The theme this year is honoring hometown businesses, and Weigum's nursery is the epitome of local Lodi businesses," said Jaime Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership. "Vern's contributions to the community are worthy of the grand marshal title."
The parade route will go down Church Street to Lodi Avenue, then to School Street, ending at Locust Street. It will start with Weigum in a decorated horse-drawn carriage. The parade will end with Santa Claus riding on top of a fire truck.
The parade judges will be: Mayor JoAnne Mounce, Council member Alan Nakanishi and his wife Sue, Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Bureau board member Mark Hamilton and his wife Carie, and project manager for Lodi Memorial Hospital Scott Dasco and his wife Lisa.
Every year, the parade shuts down streets throughout Downtown. Watts said the DLBP will put out "No Parking" signs on Wednesday morning to give businesses, employees and customers 24-hours notice.
The parking restrictions will start at 3 p.m. Thursday and continue until 10 p.m. Drivers with cars inside parking lots after the closure will have to wait until the end of the parade to move their cars, and cars that remain on the street will be towed.