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Many local residents display patriotism for opening day at Grape Festival in Lodi

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Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001 10:00 pm

A steady stream of fair-goers trickled into the Lodi Grape Festival and Harvest Fair on Thursday. Many wore red, white and blue as a tribute to the nation's tragedy just two days earlier.

The mood during the fair's opening day seemed settled. Some even commented it was nice to escape the TV's continuing coverage and go on with daily life.

In light of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C, additional flags dotted the festival grounds. The pavilion sported both American and California flags, while another American flag hung from a rented crane near the midway.

Lodi Grape Festival officials had considered canceling all or part of the event because of Tuesday's terrorist attacks, but decided at the last minute to continue as to not allow the nation's tragedy to disrupt the country. But it wasn't forgotten.

Festival board members on Wednesday decided to donate $1 from every full-price adult admission to relief efforts.

Thursday was "Food 4 Less Family Value Day," where children 12 and under were admitted free.

Most who attended in the fair's first two hours were either teen-agers or families with young children.

Opening day attendance figures were unavailable, though one worker said it seemed average.

Attendees still stood in lines for a taste of fair fare - from crepes and smoothies to soft tacos and corn dogs.

Others escaped the afternoon sun to meander through the various exhibit halls, examining murals made with grapes and visiting long-time local businesses with booths.

The younger crowd made their way to a reptile exhibit where toddlers gathered around to watch a tortoise gnaw on an oversized zucchini. A senior citizen gawked at a 3 foot-plus iguana. "Do you think it's real?" she asked.

Other exhibitors were still preparing their booths. Workers at the Corning-based petting zoo used a hand-held chopper to slice carrots for the handful of grazing animals including a newborn donkey.

Teen-age boys gathered around a real-life blacksmith as he honed his skills on a 2,400-degree piece of metal. Michel Olson of Angels Camp hauls his portable stage to fairs across the country and hammers out 100 to 130 nails a day during shows.

Another exhibitor, Frankye Craig of Reno dressed in "Wild West" attire, was a first timer at Lodi's festival. She said she was asked to attend by Festival Manager Mark Armstrong.

In an ongoing time of honor, the fairgrounds displayed additional flags being flown from the admission booths while others hung from vehicle trailers. Little girls wore patriotic ribbons in their hair while mothers dressed mainly in red T-shirts and blue jeans.

At least one vendor said attendance numbers should be up today when the TV coverage of Tuesday's events slows.

The festival continues through Sunday.

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