Necks craned, children started to cheer and a wave of clapping slowly erupted from the crowd of thousands of bundled-up families as they strained to see a radiantly lit float approach Oak Street in Downtown Lodi.
The 16th annual Parade of Lights was coming to a close, but the 74 floats, trucks and cars that made the two-hour parade possible was not about to end without a bang.
“Bob Johnson, have you been good this year?” Santa Claus shouted from the top of the Lodi Fire Department’s Santa Truck before wishing the Lodi mayor’s granddaughter a very merry Christmas.
Holiday spirit was in full swing Thursday as thousands of people came out to celebrate the commencement of the Christmas season and to cheer on local businesses, schools and clubs that had spent hours decorating vehicles to showcase in the parade.
“I never use the word magical, but that is truly what the parade is,” said Jaime Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership and coordinator of the event. “At the end of the parade, everyone is so full of hope. Just in that two hour period, the holiday spirit meter of Lodi goes through the roof.”
Over 50,000 people were expected to attend the parade Thursday night, which began around 6:30 p.m.
And while chilly weather had many dressed in layers of coats, gloves and hats, few budged from their seats as they watched float after float pass by, often with classic Christmas tunes blasting and people shouting holiday greetings to the audience.
Parade grand marshal Councilwoman Joanne Mounce got the event underway, sitting in a majestic horse-drawn carriage lit with white lights with her parents Dave and Betty Gates and her sister Kim Gates, before sitting down to watch parade participants pass her by.
And while she said she loves every aspect of the parade, be it being in the parade, being a judge or helping to run the event — she has done all three — she said this year proved to be a little extra special, adding she was very lucky and happy to be spending this holiday season with friends and family. Not only did she beat cancer, she was also the special guest of the evening.
The Parade of Lights was also something special for the Gonzalez family, who has been coming out for years to enjoy what they felt was truly the beginning of the holiday season.
Julie Gonzalez said she had been bringing her three children to the parade for the past five years, not only to have them experience what has become a Lodi tradition, but to also see her favorite part of the parade, the horses and the drumlines.
“This will continue to be a tradition,” she said. “We will be here again next year.”
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.