The western lawn at Hutchins Street Square on Friday evening resembled the expansive concert areas of Golden Gate Park - minus the fog - as hundreds of Lodi residents brought a good part of their kitchens to the traditional gala, Celebrate America.
It was a time for people of all ages, ranging from small children to senior citizens, to enjoy the Lodi Community Band perform patriotic standards and marches along with rousing musical selections from "Oklahoma" and "The Sound of Music."
A majority of the Lodi Community Band's performance was devoted to legendary patriotic marches composed by John Philip Sousa, who was born 150 years ago.
"I like the patriotic feeling," said Addie Cattuzzo, who sat in her lawn chair as her husband, Ed Cattuzzo, performed his duty as a flag bearer for the Knights of Columbus. "I like the spirit of it."
Other highlights of Celebrate America included the Knights of Columbus honor guard, decked in red, purple and black and the unfurling of a giant 20-by-30-foot American flag hanging from a Lodi fire ladder truck.
Adrienne Reynolds, who will enter seventh grade at Elkhorn School, delighted the crowd with "America the Beautiful" and "The Star Spangled Banner."
And to complete the evening entertainment was provided by Stepping Out, a seven-woman tap-dance group, and rhythm and blues music by the Frankie C. Band.
"Hot or cold, we're here," said 15-year Lodi resident Lili Lee. "We like to sing with them, and we love America."
Lee grew up in war-torn Latvia during World War II and moved to the United States in 1949.
"It's my country," Lee said with pride.
Garydon Ricks, far right, leads the children in a march around Hutchins Street Square as the Lodi Community Band plays during the Celebrate America event. (Amy Weddell/News-Sentinel)
Residents brought more food than you can shake a stick at. It ranged from KFC takeout meals to ribs, chicken and lots of wine. Some people brought entire tables for their food, while others settled for card tables.
At least one group staked out its section with yellow crime-scene tape.
New this year was an art show in memory of veterans being conducted by the Lodi-Area All Veterans Plaza Foundation and the Lodi Arts Center.
"We've got some very talented people here," said art show chairwoman Pam Bechill.
Former community promotions coordinator Cynthia Haynes brought a special piece of artwork she purchased at Pt. Reyes Station. Haynes, now executive director of the Placer County Visitors Center in Auburn, was touched by replica of the granite Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The significance was that the creator, Keith Corcoran, who lives on the East Coast, had an uncle he never met who was killed in Vietnam in 1971.
The Knights of Columbus present the colors as the audience says the Pledge of Allegiance on Friday evening during Celebrate America 2004 at Hutchins Street Square. (Amy Weddell/News-Sentinel)
Corcoran created an art piece that shows him putting his hand against his uncle's name, Edward Corcoran. Mysteriously, he says he felt his uncle's hand on the other side.
In the section of granite with his uncle's name, there is a plaster cast on of Keith Corcoran's own hand and his uncle's on the back of the granite stone.
From the moment she saw the artwork, Haynes was determined to highlight Corcoran's work at any art show she could find. It reached Lodi Friday night.
Typically, Celebrate America has been held on July 3 each year, but this time it was moved up to Friday night to avoid paying city employees overtime and because Hutchins Street Square was rented out for a wedding reception today, said Greg Ramirez, manager of Hutchins Street Square.
And since the Fourth of July will be on a Monday next year, it hasn't been determined what day Celebrate America will be held, Ramirez said.