By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Fire district bests sheriffs office in watermelon eating
Placeholder Image

LATHROP - The reaction from Interim Fire Chief Fred Manding of the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Protection District was swift.

“Lathrop Firefighters won the watermelon contest not the PD. Get the story right ROSE” was the one-line e-mail I received from the interim chief the day the story ran in the Bulletin.

He was right, of course, and I was wrong. Mea culpa, chief. I knew Fire Engineer Quinn Honore won the bragging rights for the firefighters by besting Deputy Robert Cleary in the impromptu watermelon-eating contest held during Wednesday’s Picnic in the Park to celebrate Lathrop’s 20th birthday as a city. So, mea culpa also goes to Firefighter Honore. I offer no excuse for the inadvertent error except deadline confusion which, of course, is still a lame excuse.

I thank the chief for quickly pointing out my error. But his quick note, notwithstanding its brevity and straight-to-the-point style, said a lot more than just a criticism of a fact that was incorrectly reported. It tells me, and it tells everybody, that here’s a chief who will quickly jump to right what is wrong and to redeem one of his men’s honor – even if that honor may be just over something as purely nonsensical or seemingly superficial as a good-natured watermelon-eating contest. His action goes along with the old saw which says that a person reveals his values by the acts of kindness and courage he extends to the tiniest and most vulnerable of God’s creatures. These are the people you want to work with and work for because you know someone is watching your back for you at all times, just as you do to theirs, of course.

Appropriately appended to Chief Manding’s message was the quote: “If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't Complain.”

Some happy with
smaller crowds

Speaking of changes, this year’s change of venue for the annual celebration of Lathrop’s incorporation as a city received mixed reviews from the people I talked to at Valverde Park. Some people were disappointed that the attendance was nowhere near the record crowd of 10,000 seen last year at the Mossdale Landing Community Park. A minority number, citing the lack of parking availability that they encountered at Mossdale last year, stated just the opposite. In fact, one young family we talked to said they simply went home when they could not find a parking space at all. They had no such trouble on Wednesday at Valverde Park, they said. They were also very pleased to find a cool and comfortable grassy corner of the park near the Veterans Memorial and bocce ball court where they spread their lawn chairs and enjoyed the picnic food and drinks they brought along with them, while watching the celebration proceedings from their balcony-style viewing point.

That family was one of several groups that opted to bring along picnic food. Those who wanted to join in the revelry unencumbered by ice chests and food baskets were not without any food or drinks the whole time. For the first time, the annual celebration featured food booths but they were limited to local nonprofit organizations which jumped at this opportunity to fund-raise for their many projects. Selling festival-fare comestibles such as hot dogs, nachos and cheese, piping hot pizza, and cold drinks were the American Legion Auxiliary Post #632 based at the Stockton Metro Airport on Airport Way,  Cub Scouts 425 – “the only Cub Scout Pack in Lathrop,” according to the leader we talked to – the newly chartered Lathrop Lions Club (some would probably say resurrected since there was an earlier Lions Club that existed here albeit it was called the Lathrop-French Camp Lions), and the Lathrop Seniors Club whose cotton candy booth did quite a brisk business. Even so, the nearly $100 worth of pink and yellow cotton candy that they sold during the first three hours of the event was nowhere near the more than $1,000 net proceeds that they generated last year at the Mossdale celebration.

The crowd that showed up for Lathrop’s 20th city-wide party was between 300 and 500, according to one estimate.

flock to city’s party

However small was the attendance, it was nice to see many multi-generational families, several of them with grandparents on wheelchairs, having fun eating the sweet slices of watermelon donated by George Perry & Sons of Manteca – the Perry family has done so every year for the last number of years – and watching the song-and-dance performances staged by the Manteca Youth Focus. The group’s face-painting booth was also one of the most popular attractions at the celebration. Offering fingerprinting services for children were members of the S.T.A.R.S. (Sheriff’s Team of Active Retired Seniors).

The city’s birthday celebration last year was moved to Mossdale Landing because Valverde Park was undergoing a year-long $3M-plus facelift and expansion and was closed to the public. Many residents we talked to said they would like to see the tradition of holding an old-fashioned family-oriented Picnic in the Park continued at Valverde in the heart of historic Old Town District to celebrate their town’s birthday.

And they do have a good point. After all, that’s where it all began for Lathrop and why it’s proud to be a railroad town.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail or call (209) 249-3536.