58th Annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival

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58th Annual Ripon

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020


Three days of nutty, wholesome fun in Ripon Never been to the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival? Then you’re missing a chance to savor a wholesome community-based celebration that for 58 years has served as the kick-off event for an annual calendar full of festivals celebrating the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s bounty from asparagus to zucchini. It takes place at the cusp of winter fading into early spring. The fact the weather can be gently warm accompanied sometimes by a blustery touch only enhances the experience. You will be hard pressed to find another festival in the entire valley that takes place in such clean air while at the same time the intoxicating scent and sight of billions of delicate pink and white almond blossom delights the senses. The festival portion of the event — Ripon’s version of a street fair — takes place at the expansive Mistlin Sports Park on River Road this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Everything from carnival rides to vendors hawking almond brittle, barbecued creations and artistic creations to live music takes place in the shadow of the gigantic water tower while surrounded on three sides by almond orchards. Rare are festivals that take place so close to the crop they celebrate. The Asparagus Festival takes place at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton miles away from the nearest asparagus field. Linden’s cherry festival takes place in the heart of that hamlet and not nestled next to a cherry orchard. Even Manteca’s pumpkin fair is far from the fields that grow its namesake. But to be honest pumpkin fields are dirty and dusty. The same goes for asparagus fields. And by the time the cherry festival rolls around, the heat is already cranking up. Simply driving to the Almond Blossom Festival grounds is a treat in itself. You will pass miles upon miles of almond orchards

TOP LEFT PHOTO: Antique tractors are part of the parade as well as a static display at the three-day festival. TOP RIGHT: The parade route. BOTTOM LEFT: A map to the festival grounds at Mistin Sports Park. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTO: A vendor at a previous Almond Blossom Festival

bursting with blossoms often with bright green carpets of grass between rows upon rows of trees. And while Mistlin Sports park is abuzz with activities for three days, there are a ton of events in and around downtown Ripon ranging from breakfast and bake sales to a diaper derby. It is all offered around the main event — the Almond Blossom Festival parade. The route is a combination of residential streets — where within weeks a massive canopy will shade virtually every inch of pavement — and the

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traditional downtown district complete with a street lined by pavers set off with entrance arches and other touches. The parade is a celebration of the good life, smalltown style. There are youth entries, marching bands, JROTC units, horses, antique cars and more. It also doubles as a community reunion. It isn’t unusual to see chairs lining the parade route at the crack of dawn. Walk the route through the residential neighborhoods and you will see front yard after front yard teeming with gatherings of friends and families. The Ripon Almond Blossom Festival is a true hometown celebration that openly welcomes long lost friends and strangers. Drop by this weekend. You’ll see why so many people — including those who have never lived in Ripon — are nuts about the Almond Blossom Festival.

5 8 T H A L M O N D B L O S S O M F E S T I VA L

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS Thursday, Feb. 20 7 to 10 a.m. Bake off at Ripon Community Center 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Ripon Lion’s Club Spaghetti Dinner at Ripon Community Center 5 to 10 p.m. Carnival $ at Mistlin Sports Park 7 to 9 p.m. Queen coronation at Ripon Community Center Friday, Feb. 21 9 a.m. Craft & bake sale, Ripon Community Center 4 to 7 p.m. Open house at Clarence Smit Museum

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3 to 8 p.m. Almond Blossom Festival at Mistlin Sports Park 3 to 6 p.m. Antique tractor show at Mistlin Sports Park 4 to 10 p.m., Carnival at Mistlin Sports Park Saturday, Feb. 22 6 to 11 a.m. G r a n g e Pancake Breakfast at Grange Hall 7 a.m. to noon A m e r i c a n Legion Auxiliary Breakfast, American Legion Hall 8:30 to 11 a.m. Almond Blossom Fun Run at Stouffer Park 9 a.m. Craft and bake sale at Ripon Senior Center 10 a.m. Diaper Derby at Ripon High North Gym 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bake sale at Immanuel Christian Reform Church 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Almond Blossom Festival at Mistlin Sports Park 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Antique tractor show at Mistlin Sports Park Noon to 10 p.m. Carnival at Mistlin Sports

Park 1 p.m. Almond Blossom Parade in downtown Ripon 1 to 7 p.m. Q u a r t e r back Club Brats & drinks at Ripon Community Center Sunday, Feb. 23 9 a.m. to noon Ripon VFW buffet breakfast at post hall 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Almond Blossom Festival at Mistlin Sports Park 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Antique tractor show at Mistlin Sports Park Noon to 5 p.m. Carnival at Mistlin Sports Park

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Almond Blossom Festival


The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020

From left (front row), Kelly Nguyen, Maliah Rodriguez, Sophia Medina; (back) Abigail Laswell, Zoe Barba, Madyson Valencia, Jordan Machado and Macie McPeak are the eight princesses vying for the title of Miss Almond Blossom/Miss Ripon on Thursday

Serving as Miss Almond Blossom means community involvement

By ROSE ALBANO RISSO Bulletin Correspondent

Being a Ripon Miss Almond Blossom Festival queen is not merely about wearing a dazzling crown

and a winning sash. Yes, it’s a competition, said Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Donohue. “But it’s more about community involvement.” And it’s not qualified as

Miss Almond Blossom and Miss Ripon 2019-2020 Molly Ysit

a beauty contest per se for a number of reasons, she added, although the candidates’ physical qualities are pretty obvious. A lot of brain power goes toward selecting the winner. “They have to give a speech (before the judges), write an essay, and have a personal interview with the judges,” Donohue explained. “We focus more on the brain behind the princesses.” After the crowning, those challenges are multiplied further. This time, they have to maintain a steady stream of appearances during the year of their reign. “They participate in a variety of activities once they are crowned,” starting with the ride on a float during the Almond Blossom Festival parade. They go on a tour at the Ripon Fire Department and get to know more about the vital services it provides to the community. They go to the town museum to learn about the history of the city and vicinity. They also get to experience being at the police department’s gun range shooting. All these are aimed at getting the queens “closer to the community. We’re a

“There was a tie, and they Since 1936 SALON (the organizers) didn’t want

small town; I think that adds to the queens’ knowledge of where they live. It’s actually very cool,” said Donohue who heads the organization that oversees the widely popular three-day weekend festival. The Chamber oversees the entire queen competition. “We pick the judges but we don’t have anything to do with the impartial judges. They (judges) can’t live in Ripon so that they are truly impartial,” added Donohue. All together, the competition is a three-month process starting in December with the selection of the queen candidates. The selection alone is “a big honor for the girls” because they become a part of the festival “which is a big tradition; a big deal for the community, the heart of Ripon. (The festival) is what we look forward to every year.” There’s this one trivia about the festival queen judging, which is actually an open secret about the judges. There are three members of the selection panel plus “one secret judge in case of a tie.” That has not always been the case. It’s a solution that came as a result of a controversy that occurred one year.

the Lions club’s spaghetti dinner which is a “huge tradition; this is their big fundraiser,” Donohue said. Dinner donation is $13 per person.

to see that happen again. That was 25 years or so ago,” recalled Donohue. The competition highlighted by the 2020 Almond Blossom Festival Queen will be held Thursday starting at 7 p.m. in the Ripon Lions Club next door to the Community Center. Admission is free and is open to the public. The event is held during


The Ripon Chamber of Commerce is located at 104 S. Stockton Avenue, Ripon, and may be reached at 209599-7519 or by sending an email at info@riponchamber.org. Since 1936



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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin Correspondent

A member of Vrieling Farms’ almond-harvest crew in late 2019. Although it’s still a dusty job, harvest workers have a much easier job than those in the early days.

RIPON’S VRIELING FARMS Four generations of Ripon almond growers By ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Cost of pollinating bees is part of the challenge for almond growers like the Vrielings. Twenty years ago, it cost them $50 to $60 for every hive. Today, they are forking out $200 per hive, Shannon said. “(The bees) are out there already buzzing around the hives right now, waiting for the blossoms,” he said during the telephone interview last week. “We just got done pruning and fertilizing; we’ll start bloomspraying this weekend,” he explained at the time. Spraying the orchards when the buds start coming out is important “so the flowers don’t rot,” which would translate to poor harvest later in the year, he said. “Moisture is not good for the blossoms,” he said. As far as the pruning is concerned, that is also necessary for the orchards “to thin the trees a bit” as well as to get rid of broken branches “so we have a clean orchard,” he concluded.

Bulletin Correspondent

When it comes to advances in almond farming, the 1960s were a far cry from those of today. Not that the physically challenging work isn’t there anymore – it is never easy for farmers. But for septuagenarian John Vrieling of Ripon, growing almonds has changed so much – fortunately, for the better since he was in the thick of the dusty orchards decades ago when he was much younger, and when manual labor was the primary order on the farm-labor menu. He still clearly remembers, for example, that what took a large crew of workers a week at that time to knock down the almond nuts during the harvest season in late summer through early autumn, the job simply takes “just one day today,” if that - he noted, thanks to advancements in all aspects of agriculture. “We had big crews of workers to knock the almonds down. It took a long time,” said John who, with sons Brian and Shannon, manage and operate the family business called Vrieling Farms: Almond Orchard Development (Management and Leasing”) in Ripon where they all live. They workers would climb up the trees and use wooden mallets or poles to shake the sun-dried nuts from the trees, he said. His sons don’t have to sweat it out the olden-days way running the farming business they way his generation used to do. “Everything is mechanical now. With all the mechanized machinery, (farming) is a lot easier now,” he said. Today, powerful tree “shakers” that grab the trunks of the trees and shaking them vigorously have taken over the men’s physical efforts, sending the nuts to the ground and creating thick clouds of dust in the process. Machines with the drivers or operators safely ensconced in air-conditioned interiors then sweep the almonds into neat rows to bake in the sun for several days - generally from eight to 10 days – in the orchards until they are ready for the next step – pick-up machines which then dump them up into giant loading trucks that will take them to the hulling facilities where the shells are removed. Fourth-generation of Vrieling farmers The Vrielings are now into the fourth-generation of almond growers in the family. The great-grandfather of brothers and

Vrieling Farms partners Shannon, 50, and Brian, 47, moved to Ripon in 1917 and started out with a dairy. The dairy didn’t do well, so they “got rid of it” and started planting almonds. “That was in the early 1960s,” recalled family patriarch John who who is taking it easy these days and leaves the lion’s share of operating the business to the younger generation. In addition to the contract work that the Vrielings do for other farmers, they also grow their own acres of almonds in and around the Ripon area, carving out their own niche in California’s $5.6 billion almond industry. The young sons of Shannon and Brian have also started getting their helping hands in the almond business. Shannon’s son, Brandon, 21, was heavily involved in the dusty chores during the 2019 harvest season, driving the harvesters. After graduating from high school, “he didn’t want to go to (college); he wanted to join the family business” right away, Shannon said Brian’s older son, Ian, 17, is still in high school and has not yet decided if farming is what he wants to do, with younger sibling Degan still in fourth grade with plenty of time to make a life-changing decision. The busiest time of the year for the Vrielings, like other almond growers, is during the harvest season. “But this time is busy, too,” when the trees are in bloom, Shannon said. Their current chores in the orchards include placing the bees out there to pollinate the flowers – generally, one hive for every acre.



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Almond Blossom Festival


The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020

INDEPENDENCE ALMONDS Is it bye, bye for the bees? By ROSE ALBANO RISSO Bulletin Correspondent

At this time of the year when the grounds in the almond orchards are covered with a carpet of sweet-smelling snowwhite blossoms, boxes of beehives are a common sight. But in the last few years, more and more acreage of San Joaquin County’s top crop are blooming sans the buzzing pollinators. Welcome, Independence Almonds. As the name implies, this newest variety of California’s $5.6 billion crop ($536,396,000 in 2018 figures for San Joaquin County’s almond meats) self-pollinates its own blossoms and does not need any busy bee’s help to come up with a productive nut crop at harvest time. Latest ag reports indicate that the Independence Almond variety has become so popular that there is a waiting list of farmers wanting to purchase them for planting. That’s no surprise considering the amount of money growers can save in bee pollinating rentals or lack thereof, timing of spraying applications, harvesting, and irrigation efficiency. “They are self-fertilizing so you do not need bees. You can cut costs way back on bee colonies,” said Ripon almond grower Herman Van Laar who, unlike growing number of area farmers, SEE




ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin Correspondent

Independence Almonds are reducing the needs for bees.

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020

Almond tops San Joaquin County commodities By ROSE ALBANO RISSO ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin correspondent

bulletin correspondent

Almonds are a top-notch commodity in San Joaquin County. It beats grapes, milk, walnuts and eggs in overall value, according to figures from the annual San Joaquin Agricultural Commissioner’s reports. These are the figure from the commissioner’s report of 2018: u Almond meats: $536,396,000 u Almond hulls: $10,553,000 u Almond shells: $532,000 The bigger picture shows that the gross value of agricultural production for the year 2018 was $2,594,246,000 which represents 2.62 increase over the previous year’s value of $2,527,989,000. At the same time, the value of nut crops and fruit grew by $41,237,000 in value - 3.03 percent increase from 2017 for two reasons: a large increase in bearing acreages, and rising prices of almonds and blueberries. Blueberries placed Number 9 with a total value of $61,096,000 from 2018. Acreages for almond meats in 2018 was 87,300, up from 74,200 the year before. For almond hulls, the 2018 value from 219,000 acres also showed an increase from 151,000 from the previous year. The figures for almond shells re 109,000 acres in 2018,

San Joaq u i n C o u n t y ’s almond crop ranks Number one in the Top 10 commodities of 2018. Almond Grower Bill Groen at his blooming orchard in Ripon.

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up from the 2017’s total of 75,000. A quick glance at the Top 10 commodities in San Joaquin County based on 2018 figures: 1. Almond - $536,396,000 2. Grapes - $430,492,000 3. Milk - $360,436,000 4. Walnuts (English) $211,295,000 5. Eggs, chicken $105,816,000 6. Cattle and calves $102,300,000 7. Tomatoes $93,482,000 8. Cherries - $89,693,000 9. Blueberries $61,096,000 10. Hay - $57,013,000 San Joaquin County traded with 99 different countries in 2018. The county’s crops traveled more than 10,000 miles away, according to the ag commissioner’s report. Among the top five crops traded that year was almond. These are the top 5 commodities traded: 1. Rice (milled) 2. Walnuts 3. Almonds 4. Rice (bran) 5. Onions Of the above top five commodities, San Joaquin exported 67,243 tons of milled rice; 48,944 tons of walnuts; 36,255 tons of almonds; 27,147 tons of rice bran; and, 8202 of onions. The commodity that showed the largest increase in 2018 total value was apiary at 23.97 percent which translated to $32,910,000.

Tractor show gains traction as popular festival event By ROSE ALBANO RISSO Bulletin Correspondent

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The Ripon Almond Blossom Festival has been a yearly tradition for the community in more than half a century. So when antique tractors, rust and all, showed up to join the festivities seven years ago, it was a new visual experience for everybody. It still is today considering the age of this yearly extravaganza whose menu of attractions include a diaper derby, fun run, queen pageant, and bake-off, among many others spread out through this three-day weekend held in the old downtown (where the parade will be held), and at Mistlin Park. It all started several years ago when Ripon resident Irvin Baker started bringing his tractor to the festival grounds, said Kelly Donohue, CEO of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce which oversees the widely popular festival honoring the area’s biggest crop. It’s held at the most opportune time too when the almonds are at its blooming peak. “He (Baker) would drive his tractor out there to the show, and kept it going. He brought a lot of his tractors there; he was a big part of it,” Donohue said explaining how the festival’s newest tradition started. Others who wish to show their own tractors are invited to bring their own machinery, too, she added. More information on how to take part are available by calling the Ripon Chamber of Commerce at 209.599.7519 or by visiting www.riponchamber.org Need a little nostalgia? We got you covered.


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Almond Blossom Festival

BEES? FROM PAGE 5 have not yet jumped into the Independence plant wagon. Savings jump even more significantly when harvest time comes. If you have 100 acres of these self-pollinating trees, for instance, you knock the whole field at one time, sweep them, and pick them. “After that, you’re done with the field,” whereas other fields of other varieties will require two to three times of knocking, sweeping and pick up so the extra labor will “cost a lot of money,” said Shannon Vrieling of Vrieling Farms, an agricultural company in Ripon which he co-owns with his brother Brian and their father, John. The Independence advantage does not end there. During a “bad-weather year, those trees tend to stand pretty good,” which translates to less trees being uprooted and lost. For these reasons, Vrieling Farms wanted to “try them out” and planted a section of their almond acreage with Independence. “They’re five years old now; they’re not blooming yet,” Shannon Vrieling said. At this point in time, they don’t have any plans of increasing their Independence tree inventory because of market saturation. The first time they came out a few years ago, he said 50,000 acres of Independence were planted. “There’s too many already, so we’re not planting anymore either,” Shannon prudently observed. But they are exploring the possibility of trying another new tree variety called Bennett. It’s “kind of like Independence but they don’t selfpollinate,” he said. However, where the good news come in is that the Bennett can be harvested at the same time as the nonpareils “you pick them all up with the nonpareils.” There’s a difference in the taste of Independence from

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020

the other varities like nonpareil, Shasts, Butte and Carmel. Just as for every action, there’s an opposite reaction, so does the Independence almond. A couple of years ago, some farmers “found out that they couldn’t do much with them because (the nuts) are on the bitter side,” Van Laar said. Roasting them takes out the bitterness “and you can put them in candies; but short of that, they are not good for anything; you can’t make milk or paste. They’re hard to sell.” Still, there are farmers like Stanley Vander Veen, an almond grower and owner of an almond hulling plant in Ripon, who are sold on the cost advantages of Independence. “We have some (Independence). They don’t need bees, and you harvest them all at one time,” thereby saving labor costs. “They got some good qualities,” Vander Veen said. Independence was developed by Zaiger Genetics and has been available to growers since 2008. In 2016, onefourth of all new almond acres were planted to the self-fertile variety.


ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin Correspondent

An almond grower is shown scattering boxes of beehives in his Ripon almond orchards last year. Less beehives are seen in some orchards where self-pollinating Independence almond trees have been planted.

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*Disclaimer: OAC On Approved Credit. All financing options are subject to terms and conditions. We do not finance sales tax. Advertised pricing already includes all available discounts. All advertised items are subject to availability and exclude special orders. Pricing subject to change. All advertised items are listed as ‘CASH’ prices or 12 month interest free financing-Long term financing prices might be higher. No further discount can be applied. Tax and Delivery charges must be paid in full at time of purchase. Sale pricing does not apply to previous purchases. Discounted pricing does not include tax or delivery. Monthly payments are determined by 4% of outstanding balance. Monthly payments are based on 60 months interest free financing on approved credit. Images are used for representation purposes only. Actual items may vary slightly from color, style and/or finish. Ask Sales Associates for more details. Ambience Furniture reserves the right to correct printed errors.

©2020 - Ambience Furniture. All Rights Reserved.

*Disclaimer: OAC - On Approved Credit, All financing options are subject to terms and conditions. We do not finance sales tax. Advertised pricing already includes all available discounts. All advertised items are subject to availability and exclude special orders. Pricing subject to change. All advertised items are listed as ‘CASH’ prices or 12 month interest free financing-Long term financing prices might be higher. No further discount can be applied. Tax and Delivery charges must be paid in full at time of purchase. Sale pricing does not apply to previous purchases. Discounted pricing does not include a tax or delivery. Monthly payments are determined by 4% of outstanding balance. Monthly payments are based on 60 months interest free financing on approved credit. Images are used for representation purposes only. Actual items may vary slightly from color, style and/or finish. Associates for more details. City Mattress Outlet reserves the right to correct printed errors.


Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 20, 2020



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