Sights, sounds, smells of the festival return

People ride carnival rides as night falls on the last day of the Lodi Grape Festival in Lodi Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014.

It’s been two years since the sound of music and the aroma of tasty food emanated from the Lodi Grape Festival grounds on Lockeford Street.

But at 4 p.m. today, the air will be filled with laughter and excitement as the Lodi Grape Festival opens its doors.

“It’s been like 16 months or longer since we’ve had a fair,” festival director Mark Armstrong said. “We’re all very excited. It’s not just me and my staff, but our concessionaires are thrilled to have an event to go to. For me, it’s like we skipped Christmas for one year.”

Earlier this summer, Armstrong said he reached out to vendors, concessionaires and entertainment acts as soon as the state reopned its economy on June 15.

Many headlining acts that had been booked for the 2020 fair, which was unfortunately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rescheduled and committed to other events this year.

This year’s stages will be filled with local acts like the Lodi Community Band, FunkyTim and the Merlots and the Diamond Dancers of Galt.

There are quite a few tribute acts as well, including Blue Collar Men: A Tribute to Styx, Thunderstruck: America’s AC/DC, and the Beatles tribute act The Fab Four.

The grape murals will be on display in Cabernet Hall once again, and Butler Amusements will have favorite rides and attractions. The petting zoo, however, will not be presented this year.

Armstrong said the most noticeable change guests will see is the fair’s layout. Due to cancellations from vendors and concessionaires who were unable to return this year, the roster of merchants offering up merchandise and food is just a tad short, he said.

As a result, fair staff had to lay out the event to make use of grounds’ entire footprint, which meant changing the locations of some booths and attractions.

There will be security staff and metal detectors at all Grape Festival entrances, and masks will be recommended for indoor activities.

Hand sanitizer and washing stations will also be provided throughout the festival grounds.

One new feature added to this year’s event is electronic ticketing kiosks, which will allow guests to purchase their tickets at the door quickly and easily without waiting in long lines. Cash will still be accepted at the festival ticketing windows.

“We’ve been talking about adding those for the last few years,” Armstrong said. “We’re just trying to modernize things. Everybody is so used to using credit cards, and the people who manage our online sales recommended we start offering that onsite.”

Festival hours will be 4-11 p.m. today, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon to 11 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for guests 13 and older and $6 for youths 6-12.

“The weather is going to be perfect, and there is going to be a lot of variety,” Armstrong said. “We’re celebrating what Lodi is. If you want to come out, everything is going to be nice and we can’t wait to have a great time at the fair.”

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