It was a grand slam! Lodi residents Mike and Jill Twitty along with Dave and Adeline Katen attended the Giants v. A’s game about 10 days ago.

You know that 50-50 raffle for cash the Giants do? You buy tickets and whoever wins splits the pot with the Giants Community Fund. Well, Mike and Dave each chipped in $20 apiece.

Toward the end of the game, a winning ticket is drawn and its number flashed onto the centerfield scoreboard. You can see where this is going.

Yeah, they won the jackpot — $37,500, which they split with the Giants, leaving them with $18,750. After taxes, Mike says each couple will end up with about $7,100. Mike says he’s still in a state of disbelief.

“It’s just kinda weird,” he says.

The Giants lost the game, but Mike and Dave didn’t seem to care.

Showtime

It will be business as usual at this year’s Lodi Grape Festival. The grape and wine show will be held Sept. 16 to 19.

Manager Mark Armstrong says the past year has been a “tough financial time” for the organization, so there won’t be any big-name performers this year. However, the lineup includes great tribute bands and lot of local entertainers.

The festival offices remained open during the pandemic, but barely. Last year’s festival had to be canceled for the first time in about 70 years.

On schedule

Construction continues at Needham School. The project includes demolishing much of the historic old campus (done), removing 13 portable classrooms and replacing them with 11 permanent ones, and construction of a new multi-purpose room. Meehleis Modular of Lodi is building all the buildings.

The estimated project cost is about $20 million, according to district documents. Project manager Chris Meehleis says the project is on schedule, despite his materials cost zooming up by about 50% and shortages of some items.

Lodi Unified School District Chief Business Officer Leonard Kahn expects everything to be completed by February 2022, maybe sooner. Property tax Measure U is paying for most of the current district construction activities.

Needham was built in 1921, and named for Clyde Needham, the first citizen of Lodi to be killed in World War I. Salem School on Lodi Avenue was abandoned in 1938, and its students transferred to Needham. When Lodi Senior Elementary School (now Lodi Middle) opened in the mid-’60s, students from Needham were transferred there.

Good and bad

The city’s pension plan (CalPERS), had a banner year last year — the first in a long time. The retirement system administrators reported a whopping 25% return. This brings the city’s pension liability to about 70%-plus funded.

That’s the good news.

While the city’s pension fund increased in value, the rip-roaring return may end up costing the city more money.

Huh?

To celebrate a great year, CALPERS might actually increase the city’s pension payments, according to city officials. Yep, these are the same pension bills most cities, including Lodi, have been struggling and straining to pay for years. Doesn’t seem right.

No cigar

Who wants to be a police officer these days? Lodi P.D. received a call recently of a 52-year-old man who’d just stolen some cigars from a local liquor store. When police caught up to the man, he punched one of the officers in the face and resisted arrest, officers said. Time for the Taser. The first zap didn’t stop the suspect, but the second jolt did.

Police eventually were able to bring the suspect under control so he could be delivered to the county jail. The officer ended up with a pretty good shiner, I’m told.

Say cheese!

Driving down Highway 12 west of Lodi, you’d never know there’s a photography studio that’s become a popular site for photo shoots.

It’s called Hoopla & West 12 Ranch Studio. The ranch is owned and operated by Matt and Barbara Butterworth, who inherited the property in 1987. They bill it as “a haven of rustic California beauty,” located over the railroad tracks, west of DeVries Road. The setting has been the photo backdrop for graduating seniors, newlyweds, families and others who want country photos.

The place is an actual operating ranch. Horse owners use it for breeding, boarding and other services. But the place has become a photographer’s destination where your fantasy wedding or life event can be recorded for posterity. For a fee, of course.

Steve Mann is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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