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Parade lights up Lodi

Traditions old and new come together at 17th annual Christmas parade

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Posted: Friday, December 7, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:48 am, Fri Dec 7, 2012.

For some Lodi families, the annual Parade of Lights is a longtime tradition. But for others, this was their first year to enjoy the glittering spectacle.

Thousands came out in the cold evening air to cheer for the creative work of their friends and neighbors at the 17th annual parade.

A bubble machine hidden above the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory shop released a storm of bubbles, which felt a little like snow for the crowd below. Kids played with light-up toys that shone in the growing darkness.

Folding chairs were staked out along the parade route more than 24 hours in advance, but the first members of the audience turned up at around 5 p.m. to cuddle up with blankets.

Carol Elliot was reserving seats for herself and her family. One son, Lance Elliot, 10, was seated nearby, passing the time playing on an iPhone.

The Parade of Lights holds special memories for Elliot and her family.

"I've been coming to this parade for 12 years. The day we picked up the keys to our house was the same day as this light parade," she said.

Another small family was experiencing the parade for the first time.

River Puskaric, 5, and her brother, Sage, 3, were bundled in coats, fleece scarves and hats on School Street with their mother, Michelle Puskaric.

"This is a huge turnout," she said. "I just moved here, and we had a light parade at home, but it was not nearly this big."

A new part of the parade this year went off without a hitch. The Reindeer Run began about 20 minutes ahead of the parade. Dozens of children from the Lodi Youth Running Club dressed in orange shirts and reindeer antlers. They were "harnessed" together with strings of Christmas lights in groups of eight, and ran the length of the parade route. Each team was able to make it through the run with most of their light strings still intact.

Instead of a horse-drawn carriage, Grand Marshal Vern Weigum led the parade in a classic car decked out in lights.

There was a great turnout of parade participants. Eighty groups signed up to decorate a float, from the high schools to local businesses to Lodi area clubs. And some got very creative in their float design, honoring this year's theme: "Miracle on School Street: Honoring Hometown Businesses."

Lodi Adopt-A-Child created a scene out of "A Toy Story," complete with Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Little Bo Peep. There was even a mock up of a claw machine to "pick up" children dressed as alien toys.

Salon Envy, a local hair salon, turned their float into a portable hair salon. A giant, brightly lit pair of scissors topped the truck, and a giant mirror and hair dryers took up the flatbed space. Oh, and the Grinch was dancing around inside.

Lodi Elementary P.E. Teachers wrapped themselves in Christmas lights and performed routines with Frisbees and lacrosse poles.

Boy Scout Troop 199 fashioned a massive camping tent out of lights on the back of a truck, and completed the scene with a line of trees twinkling in the dark.

Lodi Electric Utility created an entire town on their float. It was so tall it blocked out the view of the other side of the street.

And Tokay Colony 4-H brought a moose.

One young girl was very excited to see the Lodi High School Flame Fanatics float. The float blasted dance music, and Grace Shaw, 13, was ready to dance.

"There's just a whole bunch of lights, and I get to see my friends," she said. "This is great."

The Lodi Rainbow Project made their first parade appearance, with rainbow flags and a decorated car.

One of the final floats belonged to Kaehler Family Dairy, and depicted School Street shops. Dancers in cow costumes performed under a movie theater marquee announcing "Miracle on Moo Street."

Finishing the parade was a truck belonging to the Lodi Fire Department, faithfully carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus through Downtown.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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