Ferrets, folk art and misbehaving nuns - there's no telling what you'll see when you walk through a typical home or workplace in Lodi.
It's calendar time in the city.
In a world where it's just as important to be entertained as it is to be organized, calendars are fast becoming Lodi's answer to holiday gift quandaries.
And though 2006 is already in full swing, people are out in full force in Lodi stores looking for the perfect calendar.
Local customers like that they're useful and relatively cheap. Sellers like that they are varied enough to cater to anyone. Businesses see them as useful for clients and as a marketing tool.
Anyway you slice it, calendars rule the yule.
Shelves and display racks at local retailers, once burdened by wall and page-a-day calendars are now half bare.
At Lakewood Drugs on Ham Lane, items like "Mom's Family Calendar" and "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" sit next to empty spaces where holiday favorites once were.
"This was definitely a calendar year," said Pat Simpfenderfer, Anderson's fellow stock buyer. "We sold a ton of calendars, a lot more than in years past."
Anderson was one of several employees who placed orders for 2006 calendars as early as February of last year. Buyers used last year's sales to figure out which varieties to stock up on, but kept a few key buying tips in mind as well.
Age, occupation and gender are things to consider as well as size and style, Simpfenderfer said. It's also good to keep a wide variety of themes in mind.
Lodi shopper Becky Drury knows a thing or two about variety - she gave calendars as gifts for about 10 people this Christmas. Among her choices were swimsuit model calendars for her grown sons.
As much as she loves giving them as gifts, as of Tuesday, Drury hadn't gotten a 2006 calendar to display in her kitchen.
"I bought them for everybody," she said. "Now I have to get mine."
The Lakewood Drugs customer was having a tough time deciding on a theme, shoes for her or cars for her husband. In the end, she settled on a Thomas Kinkade art calendar as something that would appeal to both genders.
Acampo resident Phyllis Harrison, who bought two calendars from Staples Tuesday afternoon, had a simpler criteria for choosing a calendar.
"What do I want to look at everyday?" she said.
Her arms full of post-holiday purchases, like electronics equipment, Harrison decided on a desk blotter for the home office and a wall calendar featuring drawings of cartoon cats in crazy situations.
Calendars.com, a Web site based in Houston, will sell about 1 million calendars this year. General Manager Hillel Levin, attributes the success of the business to its ability to serve hundreds of niche markets.
"If you know somebody who has a thing for lawn tractors, they're really going to get a kick out of that as a calendar," Levin added.
In addition to the old favorites, like cats and dogs, many calendar companies offer specialty themes, like breeds and even cross-breeds of dogs. Instead of Labrador dog calendars, Levin said, there are items featuring yellow labs, chocolate labs and golden labs, as well as labradoodles - a cross between a Labrador and a poodle.
"We really do try and carry everything," Levin said.
Another favorite at Lakewood Drugs was "Nuns Having Fun," showing black and white photographs of nuns clowning around and engaged in unconventional activities, Anderson said.
The beginning of January sees the final push toward calendar sales as people realize they need a new one.
And while many local stores may be half sold-out of this year's goods, the calendar stock will remain full price until at least February or March, Anderson said.
Even though there are plenty out there to buy, many people will not purchase a calendar for 2006, opting instead to use freebies from local businesses. Ironstone Vineyards, owned by Lodi grower John Kautz, sends as many as 2,500 free wall calendars of its main vineyard to clients and customers across the globe, spokeswoman Patti Ianni said.
Other businesses did the same this year, from ski resorts to banks and even California Energy Commission, which holds an annual contest soliciting children's artwork on energy conservation.
Top 10 calendars nationwideThe following is a list of the top 10 calendars, according to Calendars.com, an online company that sells calendars.
1. Thomas Kinkade: Painter of Light (art)
2. Samoyeds (dog interest)
3. Sudoku (games)
4. Mom's Plan-It (organization)
5. Fact or Crap Page-A-Day (trivia)
6. Ansel Adams (photography)
7. Dilbert (comic strip)
8. Brooke Burke (models)
9. Family Organizer (organization)
10. Black Cats (cat interest)
- Source: http://www.calendars.com
"It's a good marketing technique," she said. "Plus, the pictures are so beautiful."
Still, for those who prefer homemade to store-bought or business-generated, the option of making a custom calendar is available. Some local businesses offer customers the materials to design and make their own calendars.
At Staples, employees of the copy center will make custom-made calendars with personalized themes or photos according to a shopper's wishes. Similarly, scrapbook stores, like Lodi's Gotta Crop!, give customers all the trimmings to make their own calendar collage creation.
"It was really big last month," said owner Marianne Alvarez. "People were making it for the holidays."