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Lathrops 20th birthday bash tonight
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LATHROP – It will be a quiet 20th birthday for the City of Lathrop today.

There will be no booming fireworks lighting up the July 1 evening sky with the San Joaquin River levee for backdrop and Mt. Diablo looming in the dark distance, and no chorus of oohs and aahs from thousands of illuminated awed faces.

No long lines for free hot dogs are expected either.

But that does not necessarily mean the celebration will be a complete dud as residents go back to how, and where, it all started: an old-fashioned, down-home family-oriented Picnic in the Park at Valverde Community Park in Lathrop’s Old Town District today from 4 to 9 p.m.

And that’s all in keeping with these financially lean times, with the city facing an estimated annual budget deficit of $2.5 million for the next five years and more layoffs, perhaps even furloughs, of city employees anticipated before the summer is over.

In contrast, the city pulled all the stops for last year’s July 1 celebration at the newly opened Mossdale Community Park a block west of City Hall with free hot dogs, bottled water, watermelons and slices of birthday cake served by City Council members, city staff and a slew of community volunteers. The evening was capped by a patriotic pyrotechnic display. The event attracted up to 10,000 people including San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore.

While tonight’s old-fashioned Picnic at the Park will not end with a bang, there will be plenty of things to do and to see at this party. There will be fun and games for the kids, plus music and entertainment for everybody. For those who don’t plan on bringing a picnic basket for family and friends, there will be a variety of food for sale available from various local nonprofit organizations including the Lathrop Seniors.

This year’s birthday bash was capped at $10,000 with the amount expected to be covered by donations from individuals and businesses. At a council meeting last month, Mayor Kristy Sayles announced that PG&E and Allied Waste Services have pledged a total of $7,500 in sponsorship for this event – with their donations amounting to $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.

The city would have needed $75,623.90 to stage the same celebration it had last year. The biggest expense would have been for Police Services – $50,000 for 26 officers, according to numbers provided by Lt. Chris Pehl to the council.

Fire District services would have cost $5,873.90 and the fireworks $16,000. The rest of the money would have gone to such other services as Port-a-Potty rentals, sound system, food and miscellaneous supplies.

“When things get better, we can go back to free hotdogs,” said a hopeful Parks and Recreation Director Katie Lemons at the council meeting.