The Lodi Concert Band led the annual Celebrate America Community Concert at Hutchins Street Square on Wednesday evening with a procession of patriotic medleys.
As the quintessential patriotic hymns filled the streets of West Oak Street and South Hutchins Street, families gathered on the southwest lawn to listen as the band played homage to the country through music.
For many attending the event, the concert is a longstanding tradition that kicks off the Fourth of July celebration.
“We have been coming to this since we moved here about 15 years ago,” Lodi resident Rosalie Ungles said.
Ungles anticipated hearing her favorite song, “God Bless America,” which she believes is a decorous anthem that embodies independence.
Despite flares of heat by the sun — onlookers tucked inside patches of shade enjoyed the show, and applauded as one song ended and another began.
Lodi native, former Marine and Korean War veteran Earl Harris remembers the sense of camaraderie he established while he played in the community band.
“It is nice, you get to know everyone very well, and it’s an amazing thing you get to do for the community,” Harris said.
As members of the audience beamed with pride, Marvin Pfeifle, a Korean War veteran and former member of the Air Force, boasted with excitement as he watched his grandson play in the community band.
“My favorite thing is the music and the sense of pride you feel when you are here,” Pfeifle said.
Classic Americana, in all its glory, emanated throughout the park. Children running around the lawn brandishing American flags, gallantly twirled and did flips in front of the stage.
In a previous article, Lodi Concert Band member flutist Janie Siess said Celebrate America is the closet thing to living in Mayberry because it has that small-town Americana feel to it.
The rustic sense of small-town living attracted both local residents and visitors alike.
As families unfurled their blankets, laying out their picnic baskets and tossing their Frisbees, the nostalgic appearance of small-town America was revived and patriotism was alive.
Being at the concert, Lodi native Marjorie Ilyer is reminded of her youth and the mornings she spent at her one-room schoolhouse, where they said “The Pledge of Allegiance” every day.
“I am very proud to be an American. I had a fruitful upbringing that allowed me to appreciate the American flag,” Ilyer said.
Marjorie believes being at the concert invokes those same emotions through a variety of patriotic songs and marches.
“There is something in the music that just moves you. You can really feel it, it’s part of you, being here and seeing all the kids playing and the old-timers, all together,” Ilyer said.
The reverberating sense of community and allegiance hummed through the air.
As a patriotic mist gleamed, World War II veteran John Connelly felt honored by the sense of unity and joy expressed by all attending the concert.
“I have always been patriotic. When I was 16, Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and I could not wait to turn 17 so I could serve,” Connelly said.
Connelly remembers his parents not wanting him to serve but he was relentless, so they obliged his request, after promising his father — who served in World War I — that he would not come home with any tattoos.
The musical performance was followed by community tap dancers and a declaration by City Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce.
Celebrate America concluded with the Lodi Fire Department raising the American flag on the fire truck ladder.