Muscle cars were rumbling and setting off car alarms, children were tussling with glowing light sabers in the street and Christmas music was blaring throughout Downtown Lodi on Thursday evening for the Parade of Lights. Thousands of spectators watched 89 floats participate in the 15th annual event.
The sports-themed parade, titled "Sportin' the Holidays," featured golf carts decorated with Christmas lights, high school cheerleaders and a float spoofing the San Francisco Giants. The event also featured floats that didn't embrace a sport, but clearly people had put a lot of effort into them, said Lodi Mayor and contest judge Bob Johnson.
"Even though they haven't adhered to the sports theme, you can tell people have spent a lot of hours on them," he said.
Johnson last served as judge for the parade four years ago during his last term as mayor.
The parade was also a chance for parents to introduce their children to a local tradition. Lodian Will Lord held his 2-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, on his shoulders during the parade and said he enjoyed the sports theme for the event. Despite the chilly temperatures and scattered showers, Lord said he had no trouble keeping warm.
"We got some hot chocolate for a dollar," he said. "The price was right; you can't beat that."
Even though vendors couldn't sit back and watch the parade, they enjoyed selling their wares during the festivities.
Michael Garlough was selling flashing pacifiers and glowing plastic swords, and said his evening's sales were strong. The plastic swords that alternate between blue, purple and red lights were his best sellers, Garlough said.
"I'm selling as many as I can carry," he said, gesturing to a small hand cart. "It looks like I don't have enough."
The parade was also a chance for Lodi youth to experience a little independence.
Tyler Nishimoto and Conner Wright are friends who attend Lakewood Elementary School. The 12-year-olds said their parents were eating dinner at Rosewood on School Street, so they had some time to watch the parade. They said they had a productive plan for how they would spend their free time.
"We are looking for friends from class and some girls," Wright said.
One group that wasn't present at the parade was the Tokay High School marching band.
Jaime Watts, executive director of the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership, said she held out hope that she would get a call from the group at the last minute, but it didn't happen.
"We miss the (Tokay) band," she said. "Fortunately, other groups from Tokay were here."
The Tokay junior varsity and varsity cheer squads, the Tokay High School Latinos de Las Americas, and Tokay Future Farmers of America were all groups that represented the local high school.
One of the most popular floats of the evening belonged to Kaehler Dairy. The farm decorated a truck with a banner reading "San FrancisCOW," and featured participants dressed in cow outfits waving to the crowd from the "Bullpen."
The results of the winning floats for the parade were not available as of press time. The News-Sentinel will have a full list in Saturday's paper, and will post the results on its website as soon as they become available.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews. com.