Mark Armstrong feels it is important to support agriculture, because it is what drives the economy. San Joaquin County is crucial to the agricultural production of the United States, and without it, he said, our area is dead. In support of local agriculture, he has served as manager of the Lodi Grape Festival for the past 19 years.
"Mark has elevated the Lodi Grape Festival to one of the best-managed operations in California," said Tom Hoffman, a friend and fellow Grape Festival board member. For his contributions in agriculture, Armstrong was chosen as an inductee for the Lodi Community Hall of Fame.
Over the past 19 years, Armstrong and his staff have brought many changes and upgrades to the festival. Some of them include the commodity murals and improvements to the grounds such as the barrel room, the electrical system, new lighting, the all-purpose floor in the pavilion, the electronic sign and the new shade structure.
Armstrong feels the Grape Festival is a huge asset to Lodi, and hopes it continues to grow and gain support in the community.
"(The festival) adds valuable dollars to the economy. It's a great community gathering, and is a tremendous showcase of the industry and its by-products," he said.
Through the years, Armstrong has been a booster of youth sports. He helped establish the Lodi Pavers Basketball Organization, an AAU basketball team that lasted for eight years. When he found out Lodi American Legion's baseball program was going to disband, he stepped in as a coach. During his six years as coach, the team grew from one 13-player team to both a junior and senior team.
Armstrong feels baseball is the ultimate sport because it is very team-oriented and at the same time is very individual. Coaching baseball is his way of staying involved in the community, he said. He enjoys helping the children and sharing his life lessons with them.
"I love coaching and being active in local sports because it helps our young people have something to do and prepares them for the future," he said.
Armstrong was born in Millinocket, Maine. He graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor of
Science in finance in 1980. He played baseball while attending the university and went to the college world series in 1976. He then played professional baseball for a short time. He has been married to Teresa for 30 years, and they have four children. His future endeavors include helping to restore Zupo Field and maintaining it.
Doug Holck, a friend and fellow board member who nominated Armstrong, describes him as an exceptional people person who is very adept at managing and organizing. Armstrong's best attribute is his ability to work with people and get the most out of them, he said.
"Mark is a true entrepreneur who came to Lodi to tackle a unique job and to raise his family. He has succeeded at both and is a genuine asset to the community, and is an all-around terrific individual," he said.
Other inductees to the Lodi Community Hall of Fame this year include Sally Snyde, who serves as the president of the board of the World of Wonders Science Museum and led the effort in opening the museum, for her contributions to community service; Robert Gross, who performs with and served as music director for the Lodi Community Band and served on the board for the Lodi Community Concert Association, for his contributions to the arts; Thomas Peterson, who served as city manager and was involved in the revitalization of Downtown, for his contributions in government; Michael Stokes, the owner and operator of Stokes Brothers Farms who has played an active role in agricultural groups, as a rising star; and Elmer Kludt, who helped establish the Boosters of Boys and Girls Sports Organization and was active with the local Salvation Army, where he served on the board of directors for many years. He was nominated posthumously by Junelle Osterlie for his contributions to community service.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Nov. 5 at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton St. Cost to attend is $45. To make reservations, call the club at 334-2697.