Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lodi, CA: Oh, Lord!

I recently saw a comment on Twitter about Effingham, IL being the "Lodi of the Midwest" from Twitterer johnginsburg in Chicago. Now, my familiarity with Lodi is limited to the old CCR classic song with the famous refrain, "Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again." Beyond that, I know nothing about it. My assumption is that Mr. Ginsburg meant the comment a bit tongue and cheek - so I decided to do a bit of research on Lodi. Here is what I found.

Lodi, California is located in San Joaquin County and has a population of about 64,000 people and is considered a part of the metro area of Stockton and a popular bedroom community for folks tired of real estate prices in San Francisco and Sacramento. Lodi is probably most famously known as the Zinfandel Capital of the World and has many wineries surrounding it - most famously it is the childhood home of Robert Mondavi.

Lodi was settled in 1869 when the Central Pacific Railroad was creating a new route - settlers offered a townsite as an incentive for the railine to build a station and it worked. The Central Pacific was given 12 acres in the middle of town and streets were layed out from there.

Initially called Mokelumne and Mokelumne Station after the nearby river, confusion with other nearby towns prompted a name change, which was officially endorsed in Sacramento by an assembly bill. Several stories have been offered as to the origins of the town's new name. One refers to a locally stabled trotting horse that had set a four mile (6 km) record, but as the horse reached the peak of its fame in 1869, it is unlikely that the notoriety would have still been evident in 1873. Alternatively, Lodi is a place in Italy where Napoleon defeated the Austrians and won his first military victory. More than likely, some of the earliest settler families were from Lodi, Illinois, and they chose to use the same name as their hometown.

In 1906, the city was officially incorporated by voters, passing 2 to 1. The fire department was established in 1911, and the city purchased the Bay City Gas and Water Works in 1919. Additional public buildings constructed during this period include the Lodi Opera House in 1905, a Carnegie library in 1909, and a hospital in 1915.

Early industries in Lodi included a saw mill, flour mill, vineyards, orchards, and cattle ranching.The Lodi Land and Lumber Company saw mill was built on the south bank of the Mokelumne River in 1877, and relied on logs floated down from the Sierras during the rainy season. The mill was powered by a steam engine, and has a capacity of 40,000 board feet per day.

The "Flame Tokay" grape was introduced from Algeria in 1857, and was a central feature of the vineyards that gradually rose to prominence because of the sandy loam soil and the location directly east of the Suisun Pass. For a brief period during the late 19th century the vines were usurped in favor of watermelons and wheat, but price cuts and labeling problems encouraged farmers to plant more vines.

The early 20th century saw the establishment of several large manufacturers with national distribution capabilities, such as Supermold, the Pinkerton Foundry, the Lodi Iron Works, Pacific Coast Producers, Holz Rubber Company, Valley Industries, and Goehring Meat Company.

Today the Lodi area is home to several large manufacturing, general services, and agricultural companies, including Archer Daniels Midland, Blue Shield of California, Dart Container, General Mills, Holz Rubber Company, Kubota Tractors, Lodi Iron Works, Miller Packing Company, Pacific Coast Producers, Thule/Valley Industries, and Woodbridge-Robert Mondavi.Lodi is the birthplace of A&W Root Beer and A&W Restaurants, established in 1922. The first mug was served in June 1919.

Lodi is well known for the town's production of grapes and wine. Lodi is referred to as the wine-grape capital of California. Every September there is a Grape Festival held which includes rides, food, and wine tasting. Also popular is the Spring Wine Show (held in late March/early April, so as not to coincide with Easter every year), which showcases the area's 50-plus award-winning wineries.

Taste of Lodi is one of the area's most prestigious food and wine events. The event supports tourism growth in the Lodi's community and features over 40 award-winning Lodi wineries along with food selections from some of the area's finest restaurants and caterers. The event also has wine seminars, chefs demonstrations, live music and a Port, Cigar and Chocolate Pavilion.

Born in 2005 by the Lodi Winegrape Commission, this wine event is held at beautiful Lodi Lake and features Lodi's finest Zinfandel wines. Usually held on the third weekend of May this event includes a Friday night dinner called "Vintner's Grille".

Changing Faces Theater Company is a non-profit, student-run organization, which is supported by the Lodi Arts Commission. An annual two week production occurs each summer and is cast with mostly local children ranging from age six up to college students and, sometimes, a few adults. The production is normally staged at Jessie's Grove Winery where a number of additional activities are typically held at the same time.

A Creedence Clearwater Revival song was named for Lodi, CA, although the songwriter (John Fogerty) admits he had never actually visited the city and simply thought it was "the coolest sounding name". Still, the song, with its chorus "Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again," has been the theme of various events in the city including a past Grape Festival. Fogerty has continued the legend often saying he was "stuck in Lodi".

So the question is this. What does our Twittering friend mean exactly by saying Effingham is the Lodi of the Midwest? Is it the theater? Help me out!

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