For more than 18 years, bunches of grapes have fluttered in the wind around Lodi as a symbol of the city’s largest industry.
Resident Patrick O’Connell drew the symbolic flag in 1993. His design of a giant cluster of grapes and rolling strips of color in the background won a citywide design contest.
The city purchased flags to display throughout Lodi as a way to promote tourism and the wine industry, said Phil Pennino, who was mayor when the flag was approved.
“People used it as a time to rally. For me personally, to have our own city flag was an opportunity to have something nice out there to represent, ‘This is ours, this is our flag,’” he said.
O’Connell said that during the past year, family members have told him they are not seeing his flag around town.
But city spokesman Jeff Hood said it is still displayed in five locations throughout Lodi.
The flag is regularly flown outside Hutchins Street Square and Veteran’s Plaza near City Hall below the American and California flags. Currently, the city is ordering a new flag for Veteran’s Plaza because the previous one was worn out, Hood said.
There is one in the corner of the upstairs lobby of City Hall and one in Carnegie Forum, where Lodi City Council meetings are held.
The city also has one at Hutchins Street Square that can be used for special occasions, like the mayor’s annual State of the City speech. The city even loaned it to a local resident who wanted to use it at a loved one’s funeral.
The Chamber of Commerce frequently uses the flag, and it is still a symbol of unity, president and CEO Pat Patrick said.
“It’s the kind of thing that you hope after 18 years or 118 years from now, it’s sitting on a stage. It’s something generations can share through the years as a symbol of love and allegiance for the city,” Patrick said.
In 1993, Stanley Kirst wanted the city to have a flag representative of Lodi. Kirst, who has since died, and his wife, Cleo, offered a $1,000 U.S. savings bond as an incentive to encourage adults and students to design a flag.
The city received more than 50 entries, including O’Connell’s winning grape design. The Tokay High School graduate was 35 and working at an advertising agency at the time.
He ended up cashing out the $1,000 savings bond and using it on a vacation to Mexico.
O’Connell said he loves living in Lodi because of the wine and the smell of Cheerios when he is on Mills Avenue.
“I like the people and the slow pace of life living in the Central Valley, and being able to get to the sea or the mountains within hours,” he said.
Pennino said the council at the time liked the design because it focused on the city as a tourism destination for wine lovers.
“We were in the process and movement toward wineries. The whole grapes and wine industry was being foretold,” Pennino said.
During the same year that the flag was approved, Lodi received a group of visitors from Kofu, Japan, which is Lodi’s sister city. The city presented the flag to the mayor, which was a huge honor, Pennino said.
It would be nice if Lodi residents could buy the flag, Pennino said, and it could be flown in even more places throughout the community.
Steve Mann, who was also on the council when the flag was approved, said the city can take the flag to other places, like parades, and show off another unique feature of Lodi.
“It’s something you are not going to find in other cities. By virtue that we have one, it sets us apart,” he said.