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56th annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018



farmer Joshua Cunningham’s almond orchard in rural Ripon.


uIf you’re coming from out of town, it is easy to find the Almond Blossom Festival at Mistlin Sports Park. Just take the Jack Tone exit off of Highway 99 and head north past the Flying J Travel Plaza to River Road. Admission to the festival is free although there is a $5 charge for parking. Mistlin Sports Park, by the way, is a sweet setting for the Almond Blossom Festival as it is surrounded by orchards. If you are coming from Manteca and want to get an extra big dose of almond blossoms head east out of Manteca on East Yosemite Avenue (East Highway 120) and then turn right at the Jack Tone Road signal and head south to River Road.



uThe parade is Saturday at 1 p.m. in downtown Ripon starts at the end of Main Street near Stockton Avenue and travels down Main Street to Vera where it will turn down Vera Avenue to Fourth Street and then had to the Ripon Community Center. If you are coming from out of town you can take the Jack Tone Road exit and head west to Main Street and turn right or take the Main Street exit and turn west. If you’ve never been to downtown Ripon you are in for a treat with its unique pavers, streetscapes, shops, and tree-lined streets.

56TH ALMOND BLOSSOM FESTIVAL Thursday, Feb. 22 7 to 10 a.m. Bake off at Ripon Community Center 2 to 8 p.m. Art show, 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 $1 ride night at Mistlin Sports Park 7 to 9 p.m. Queen coronation at Ripon Community Center Friday, Feb. 23 9 a.m. to noon Art show, Ripon Community Center 3 to 8 p.m. Almond Blossom Festival at Mistlin Sports Park 4 to 11 p.m., Carnival at Mistlin Sports Park Saturday, Feb. 24 6 to 10 a.m. Grange Pancake Breakfast at Grange Hall American Legion Auxiliary Breakfast, American 7 a.m. to noon Legion Hall 8:30 to 11 a.m. Almond Blossom Fun Run at Stouffer Park 10 a.m. Diaper Derby at Ripon High Gym 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Almond Blossom Festival at Mistlin Sports Park Noon to 11 p.m. Carnival at Mistlin Sports Park 1 p.m. Almond Blossom Parade in downtown Ripon 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Quarterback Club Brats & drinks at Ripon Community Center 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Noon to 5 p.m.

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018


Miss Almond Blossom 2017

Jessica Harlan blossoms during her reign By JASO N CAMPBELL Th e B ul le t i n

It wasn’t like Jessica Harlan didn’t have a role model to look up to when she was crowned Miss Ripon last February. After all, it was her sister who put the crown on her head the night of the Almond Blossom Coronation, and served as her de facto consiglieri as the Ripon High School senior balanced the rigors of her schoolwork and her extracurricular activities with being the face of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce over the course of the last 12 months. And now she’s taking the role of helping who will come next very seriously. “You definitely learn how to step up and take a leadership role when you do this, and I’m trying to do that for the girls that are competing to come after me,” said Harlan – the daughter of Jim and Harlan, and sister of 2016 winner Megan Harlan. “They look up to you because they know that you know what they’re going through, and there’s a connection there that you can’t really find anywhere else. “I wish all of them all of the luck in the world, and I know that whoever wins is going to have a life-changing year ahead of them.” Harlan, who works everyday on her barrel racing horse Missy – a 13-year-old red dun – and is active in the local FFA, said that she had to learn how to balance her school and social life with her duties as Miss Ripon. She said she was surprised at first at how much she had to interact with the public, but learned valuable lessons in communication and how to carry herself by being put on the spot and knowing that people were looking at her as a role model and a representative for the small, tight-knit community. “Doing this was a complete eye-opener because I had no idea how much goes into being Miss Ripon, or how much goes on to putting all of this together,” she said. “Doing this changes how you view everything about the world that you thought you knew, because you know that the public eye is on you and you have to present yourself well. “I had to learn how to approach people – how to talk to people – and I think that’s something that has helped me build confidence that I didn’t necessarily have before.” And Harlan knows how tight the relationships amongst the candidates can be. During her run last year she met her two best friends – Ripon Christian senior Nicolle Drieson and Ripon High Senior Kristin King – and she’s sure that those same bonds are being forged amongst the current court. When it comes to offering them insight into how to approach the last few days, and the coming year for the girl lucky enough to wear the crown, she doesn’t hesitate to offer advice. “Embrace it – the time goes by so fast, so you have to step out of your comfort zone and do whatever you can do in the community because it’s going to be so much fun,” Harlan said. “I got the chance to participate in Soaring over Ripon and go up in a hot air balloon – I conquered my fear of heights that day – and your entire year will be filled with experiences like that. “Make the most of it.” To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@ or call 209.249.3544.

Photos by Birch and Blossom Photography

Jessica Harlan, the 2017 Miss Almond Blossom, has looked back on her year as Miss Ripon favorably and says that it has helped her grow in numerous ways.


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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thirdgeneration almond farmer Joshua Cunningham, 35, examines the nonpareils already in full bloom in one of his orchards. ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin correspondent

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Three simple-sounding words shaped Joshua Cunningham’s life to this point: family, farming, and faith — and not necessarily in that order. Born and raised in the town known for its moniker as the Almond Capital of California,

the Ripon Christian High and Modesto Junior College graduate has had agriculture coursing through his veins since birth. He got it in double dose, too. He inherited that from both paternal and maternal sides of his family who were longtime area farmers. Today, at the age of 35, the married CunSEE ORCHARD, PAGE 7

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018


RIPON HISTORICAL SOCIETY A true Ripon community effort from the start By G LE N N K AHL The Bu lletin

The 56th annual Almond Blossom Festival staged by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce is themed “Once Upon a Time” this year in honor of the Ripon Historical Society. The Ripon Historical Society is the sum total of the efforts of countless private citizens and businesses that joined together to celebrate the past and present of the Ripon community through its museum along with the Veterans Museum of Ripon and the Police Memorial all at the corner of First Street and Locust Avenue between the Veterans building and the restored old city jail. Long time Ripon chef, entrepreneur and business owner John Mangelos spearheaded the formation of the historical society. An endless number of volunteers lined jointed the effort such as Helen Whitmore, Susan Kirk and Connie Jorgenson who is in charge of scheduling the docents in the downtown museum. It was at a Historical Society charter night on May 29, 1984 some 34 years ago when four Riponites stepped up to donate $1,000 as charter members with lifetime status. They were Ross and Elsie Brown, Walter E. and Nelda L. DenDulk and Josephine E. Nadeau. Other Ripon citizens donated amounts of $25, $50 and $100 getting their names on a charter member plaque that hangs today near the front door of the library. The Ripon Rotary Club served as the impetus in launching the historical group under the leadership of John Mangelos by donating more than $500. Martha Johannsen was appointed the society’s secretary and John Williams, its attorney. Ripon Fire Department’s Morrie DeJong at the time observed, “It’s long overdue to have a historical society and museum — a lot of the old timers have already left and there’s been a lot of history lost.” Originally to become an associate member, a donation of $5 or more was required to be given each year. A $25 donation classified the resident as a patron and a family membership was $50 annually. The creation of the Veterans’ Park Museum and the Veterans’ Wall came at a cost of nearly $800,000 with Mangelos being the organizing force securing donations from the community to restore the old First Congregational Church building to honor Ripon’s wartime heroes along with all veterans who have served from the community. The building had also served as the first city hall in town in 1945 and later the office of the chamber of commerce that workers moved across the lawn in the restoration at First and Locust streets. First president and founder of the Ripon Historical Society, John Mangelos surmised, “When you are looking at voluntary organizations or charitable organizations, you need to look at the volunteers, because it’s the volunteers of the organization that make a difference. If you don’t have a strong set of volunteers to carry a project onward, it will just simply die.” The museum now rests on a piece of land that was donated in the 1936 by the Swedish Church that is now the Heartland Community Church located half a block away across Acacia Avenue and Main Street and an early home of Ripon’s public library. Mangelos said World War II intervened and slowed the progress and in the mid-‘40s

TOP PHOTO: Workers gather outside their auto shop where they repaired Fords — Model T’s and Model A’s. MIDDLE PHOTO: Douma’s Grocery Market is pictured being relocated from its home on Main Street in the late 1950s to make way for the construction of a new market. It was towed four blocks to its new home at the back of what would become the Silverado Nursery on Stockton Avenue. It was located where the parking lot for the Ripon Library is now located in the downtown. BOTTOM PHOTO: Looking from the west on Ripon’s Main Street in the early years of the city shows a busy community with hotels and at least one grocery store along with the Odd Fellows Hall at the end of the street. Photos Courtesy Ripon Historical Society

when the Ripon Lions Club took on the mission to get the library completed and ready to occupy as a new community resource that would years later become Ripon’s Clarence Smit Memorial Museum. Smit was a city administrator who later labored to find the funds in the city’s coffers that had been set aside for park use only and could be used for a museum. Smit had died suddenly while vacationing at Lake Tahoe. It was decided unanimously to name the museum in his honor — a museum that was built in Stouffer Park adjacent to the Stanislaus River in a homelike setting. “The museum was built by volunteers with community spirit and was accom-

plished because the people of Ripon saw a need. When the library needed larger quarters and moved across the street to the old Schemper’s Hardware building that had been a grocery store built by the Doumas, the library became empty and available. I approached the council at that time and asked if the Historical Society could move its museum from Stouffer Park to the Main Street location where it might become more usable and visible and more accessible to Ripon’s schools,” Mangelos said. Mangelos said the council turned him down a number of times but several community organizations wanted the space in the park building for their events and the Historical Soci-

ety finally prevailed with the city deciding that they would allow the museum the opportunity to move into that downtown space. The original location for the museum started out in the Ripon Senior Center on Main Street at Vera Avenue in 1984 that had been the site of the first Christian School which was owned by Bethany Home. “We started out with a first display being ‘family trees,’ and we highlighted families within the community that were heritage families — families that started what we presently have as a unique character and fabric within the community. The second display we put together was the SEE HISTORY, PAGE 6


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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018


‘cultural display’ and thanks to school teacher Susan Kirk it was quite a success.” He credited Susan for finding photographs and artifacts from earlier times in the community that would be displayed for future generations to enjoy. She did her teaching during the day and her volunteer historical chores at night. When the city was redoing Main Street a brick program where families would buy a brick with their name on it was launched with the bricks being installed as part of the city’s new Main Street. Mangelos credited Kirk for organizing that red brick fundraiser that would see bricks sold to earn funds to pay for supplies to make the museum more functional. “People like Susan and Helen Whitmore were central to the museum’s success when we moved the facility from Stouffer Park into its present location downtown. She worked on perfecting displays such as the doctor’s office and the blacksmith shop,” he said. The ladies of the Soroptimist Club labeled many of the display articles and still work in the museum even after their club disbanded a few years ago. One of those Soroptimist members, Connie Jorgenson, volunteered to take over the direction of the docents when Helen Whitmore stepped down, he added. “Connie has worked with the schools making the principals aware that the museum can serve as a valuable short field trip that doesn’t require the use of school buses,” Mangelos explained, “giving the students a glimpse into the history of Ripon first hand. Once again people like Susan and Helen Whitmore were so very important in the beginning stages of the museum.” Mangelos said Helen was a “trooper”. When the museum was moved to its new location at the old library on Main Street, Helen worked with volunteers he had found to organize the displays set up the different areas such as the doctor’s office and the blacksmith shop. He recalled the value of the women of the Soroptimist Club when volunteers had to pack up the museum for moving from Stouffer Park to the new location as they identified, packed and wrapped all the artifacts to be sent to the museum’s new home. “They bought supplies and did this as a gift to the community of Ripon,” he said. The old city hall and his-

Photos Courtesy Ripon Historical Society

TOP PHOTO: A crowd of Sunday morning worshipers are seen in front of an early Ripon First Congregational Church on the corner of Locust and First streets that would later serve as Ripon’s city hall and the office of the chamber of commerce. Today it has been restored from public donations to become the Veterans’ Memorial building adjacent to the Veterans’ Memorial Wall that bears the names of Ripon’s service personnel, many having made the ultimate sacrifice. BOTTOM PHOTO: The Ripon Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street is now the Ripon Road House Restaurant.

toric church building was relocated some 50 feet from its original location on the corner lot to accommodate the proposed new construction for the Veterans’ Museum that was integrated into the site plan. Only the original section of the structure was moved, with the additions from the 1950s removed and the original appearance restored, he said. All materials and professional services were donated for the construction work. All the architectural drawing and blueprints for all aspects of the project were donated by Robert DeGrasse. In the case of the flooring and the external lighting saw the donation of materials by Stephen Holmes of Brookfield Homes. Glenn Spyksma of Calvary Reformed Church repaired all the siding on the building and took all the lath and plaster off the interior and removed the walls inside the structure. Robert Wahlen of Paver Décor Masonry installed the pavers at a discount for the side alley and parking area. Jamey D. Wylie of JDW Engineering provided

the structural engineering for the stabilization of the structure. Jose Orozco of Production Framing South, built the handicap ramp. Angela Messina of pavestone supplied all the pavers for the project. Techni-Seal provided the sand for the pavers and Save Mart Supermarkets donated $1,000. Jamie and Ron McManis of McManis Family Vineyards made a $1,000 donation. Larry Bridewell installed the doors donated by AKF Development. David Coon of Covan Home System Specialists donated the entire security system. Bart Nelson of Nelson Construction provided the concrete work for the handicap ramp. Daniel Peterson of Spirit Heating and Air Conditioning took care of the needed HVAC system for the building interior. Tony Bertolucci of IBEW Local 595 provided all the electrical service inside the building. Ripon JROTC cadets cleaned the inside of the building, picked up the sheet rock and prepped the floor surface for installation. The Granillo Family tore out and

cleaned out the interior of the structure. Jim Latino of Valley Distributors build the building doors. Joe Perdichizza of Silverado Building Materials provided the sheetrock and building products and continue to provide more materials. Don’s Mobile Glass installed windows at a discounted price. Clark Pest Control provided termite eradication. Nathan Tuttle of Centex Homes installed the handicap ramp. Mark Ewing of Meritage Home provided professional construction guidance for the $30,000 foundation of the building. Nicole of Pulte Homes installed the flat-work sidewalks. Burton Fisher of Fisher Brothers Housemoving Inc., moved the initial building at half the total cost. Jerry Yerian of Central Valley Roofing Association re-roofed the entire building for free. The American Legion donated $10,000 towards the project to purchase showcases and mannequins for display. Herb and Wilamina DenDulk donated $1,000 towards the project siding. Harvey Douma and Katherine Mangelos both donated $1,000. Ripon Chamber

of Commerce through its “Save Old City Hall” campaign collected $4,315. Mr. and Mrs. L.P. Van Dyken donated $500. The Bank of he West paid for the insulation of the building. Allied Building Products supplied the roofing materials, Mendoza Executive Landscaping provided all the exterior landscaping under the direction of Richard Mendoza, The Industrial Company moved all the concrete and removed the blacktop off the lot at the beginning of the project. California Rock Crushing ground up all the concrete and asphalt left on the site. Certain Teed provided roofing shingles. Pam Davidson of Tri-Valley Lending assisted early on in the project. Ray Davidson of Emerald Builders took care of the demolition and Gilton Solid Waste donated dumpsters for one year at the site. Bryan Lee of Frontier Media was working on a video for the museum. Allen Wagner Construction hooked up the sewer system and put in a new storm drain on the property. Betty McBrian — a neighbor to the project and retired publisher of the Ripon Record — supplied

electricity and water to the site. Bill Fillios and Mike Atherton of AKF Development supplied the doors and demolition along with their employees working on site. Bovee Environmental Management provided a report on the project required by the Air Pollution Control Board. Dave and Nancy Hall of Dave Hall Masonry brought many of their suppliers into the effort including Dunn Edwards, and Garza Custom Painting both of Modesto, Interstate Concrete Pumping of French Camp, Northern Steel and 7-11 Building materials both of Modesto, Basalite Block Inc. of Dixon and they constructed the masonry wall that housed the museum’s plaques. Those wishing to learn more about the museum or the Historical Society or the operation of the Clarence Smit Memorial Museum may contact President John Mangelos at 204-3462 or contact Connie Jorgensen at the museum when it is open to the public on Wednesdays or Saturdays. To contact Glenn Kahl, email

Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018



ningham grows almonds on some 200 acres spread out mostly in the rural areas between Manteca and Ripon south of the 120 Bypass and along Highway 99. A significant portion of that total acreage was purchased from his octogenarian grandfather, Leroy Cunningham, who sold the property when he retired after more than a half century of farming. Through the years, the third-generation farmer expanded his ag business venture by leasing additional land for more almonds with hopes of expanding even further in the future as funds — and additional acreage — become available for acquisition. The younger Cunningham has been farming solo for a little more than a decade and a half, starting as soon as he graduated from high school. But he has not been alone in his agricultural pursuits. Help has been coming from a number of family members including his mother, Kelly Shipley, and his 87-year-old grandfather Leroy who really never bid a permanent goodbye to his old haunts. Be that as it may, though, the dedicated young farmer did not just jump into being an almond farmer without the proverbial “getting one’s feet wet” first. Cunningham had an early start in the business. He was still in junior high when he started working in his grandfather’s almond orchards where there was no shortage of work year-round, reaching climax during the blooming season in spring and the long and dusty harvest season in late summer through fall. When he was not out working in the orchards, the teen-aged Cunningham could be found in his grandfather’s shop where various farm equipment and trailers — some belonging to other area farmers — were being repaired when they broke down. When necessary, they also built equipment as needed. So Cunningham had plenty of years getting his feet and fingers wet in the business, so that by the time his grandfather was ready to call it a career, grandson was more than ready and fully confident to receive the torch being passed along to the next generation. Grandpa, however, did not completely relinquish everything. Shipley said grandfa-

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin correspondent

Kelly Shipley gets to enjoy her love of the outdoors while helping her almond-farmer son, Joshua Cunningham, do maintenance work in the orchards. She is pictured driving heavy agricultural equipment that is used to spread gypsum along the trees.

ther Cunningham, who with wife Annabelle had a dairy prior to starting their almond business, is a very active and alert 87-year-old. He still enjoys helping his grandson build equipment, mostly to have an outlet for his neverending ideas. “He is very intelligent. He pretty much taught Josh everything he knows. They are almost best friends. They take each other’s ideas and then build something,” Shipley said. They would first brainstorm an idea, exchanging pros and cons, and then go on to “designing stuff,” she added. Getting his feet wet as a toddler Cunningham’s exposure to farming goes back even much earlier than being involved in his grandfather’s almond orchards. Before he even started school, to be exact. Back when Shipley’s father, Carl Cowart, was running a corn and sileage “chopping business,” she said, “I used to work for my dad. I drove chopper and silage trucks.” It was a job she thoroughly enjoyed. “I like the outdoors. When he (son Josh) was younger and I drove silage trucks, he would ride in the trucks with

me all day long,” Shipley said. And then, when her son got older, sometimes he would drive the truck a short way down the road. “He learned how to do all that stuff when he was younger.” Shipley’s father and her uncle, Minard Roorda, were partners in the “chopping business” which sold cow feed to various dairies in the area. They have since sold the business. With all that on-the-job experience on both sides of his families, Cunningham was in a very fortunate position to pursue a lifelong career in agriculture. Later, he augmented all that hardearned first-hand knowledge by acquiring an Agri-business AA degree from Modesto Junior College. Something else the younger Cunningham learned from his grandparents were lessons that no amount of money or college education could ever buy. “His two grandpas had very good work ethics. They instilled in him to work hard,” Shipley said. While she shies away from the industrial jobs in the metal shop, Shipley lends her son a hand as often as possible by doing a variety of chores in the orchards. Last fall, for

example, she drove a Kubota Skid Steer Loader filled with the fine whitish powder (gypsum) that is a familiar sight in various orchards at this time of the year, spreading the soil retardant between the rows of almond trees. She also provides an extra hand when her son does sweeping services during the almond harvest at other farmers’ orchards. One of the farmers to whom they extend that helping hand is Shipley’s other uncle, fellow almond farmer David Roorda. Sadly, Shipley’s 79-yearold father is no longer actively farming due to Alzheimer’s.

pley, is a senior at Ripon Christian High where she maintains a 4.2 GPA. She plans to follow in her sister’s footsteps and study nursing also. “I have all three turned out very well,” Shipley proudly said of her children. But of her son Josh, who excelled in baseball and soccer at Ripon Christian High, she has some special words. “He’s very good; he’s more like his grandpa (Leroy) —

just works and gets things done. He is a very hard worker.” However busy he is at the shop and in the orchards, though, Cunningham always finds time in his life for God. He and his wife, Sandra, who is a nurse working in Telemetry at Modesto Memorial Hospital, are both faithful members of Escalon Christian Reformed Church where he serves as a deacon.

Family and faith central in farmer Cunningham’s life Cunningham is the only one in his own generation who is continuing the family farming tradition. His sister, Janelle Cunningham, who is his junior by a year, is an Emergency Room nurse at Doctors Hospital of Manteca where she has worked since graduating from MJC. She also worked at Bethany Home in Ripon when she became a CNA while in high school. She is married, with four children, but has kept her maiden name at work. Youngest sibling, Jamie Shi-

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018

A diaper derby Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Ripon High gym is just part of the family fun during the three-dal Ripon Almond Blossom Festival.

ALMOND BLOSSOM FESTIVAL Three days of nutty, wholesome fun in Ripon By D E N NI S WY AT T The Bu lletin

Never been to the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival? Then you’re missing a chance to savor a wholesome community-based celebration that for 6 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


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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 delights, Lockeford Sausage 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 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 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 an art show 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 traditional downtown district complete with a street lined by pavers set off with entrance arches and other touches. The parade is a cel-

The Ripon High marching band during the 2017 Almond Blossom Parade.

ebration of the good life, small-town 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.


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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018


Ode to sweet almond blossoms

46th annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival P E R SPCT IV E

Almond Blossom Festival in Ripon taking place at Mistlin Sports Park surrounded on three sides by flowering almonds


To reach Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

FAST FACTS uWHAT: Ripon’s 56th annual Almond Blossom Festival uWHEN: Feb. 224-26 uMORE INFO: Visit the Ripon Chamber of Commerce web-site at www., or call 599-7519.


t’s nature’s ultimate love potion. The tantalizingly sweet perfumery scent of almond buds opening are starting to caress the senses as the Northern San Joaquin Valley starts to come out of its winter slumber. It’s a potent elixir from Mother DENNIS Nature’s WYATT repertoire. Editor Breathe deeply the vanguard of early blooming almonds. They’re the ones that bravely break-up the tens of thousands of naked almond trees surrounding Manteca-Ripon-Escalon with specks of fluffy white. They are just the cure to start shaking the fog-induced valley blues. Last Saturday was such a day. It was a slightly warm day but still it had an edge of coolness as the sun emerged over the snowcapped Sierra. It was a day made for heading east and south out of Manteca as well as north, east and west out of Ripon. It didn’t matter whether it was jogging, cycling or in a car with all the windows down. The sweetness of spring is starting to come out of hiding in nature’s woody jewel boxes. You can smell it in the damp silage piles at dairies. It is reflected in a handful of ornamental shrubs and trees starting to produce a growing cascade of red, pink and white blossoms. You can see it in the elegant camellias here and there with perfect blooms starting to form against waxy leaves. And you can fill your lungs with pure heaven on earth as the early almond bloomers set buds scattered about in older orchards. Trying to describe the sweetness of this time of year to someone who hasn’t experienced it is difficult. Not because it doesn’t conjure up lots of descriptive words. It does. No words exist, though that are strong enough to describe the embracing of the senses — vision, smell and even touch. It is just a matter of time, perhaps a week, before the blooms will burst forth in mass turning the countryside into a gorgeous portrait of pink and white above intense light green grass. The dampness of winter is fleeing. The cold is starting to disappear. The gloom and doom of tule fog is in its final days The buzz of the bees is audible almost everywhere you turn. But nothing is more overwhelming than the scent of nirvana in the form of almond blossoms. It overtakes you on every breath 24/7 for days. If it is a real gentle landing into spring, it will last for a week if you’re lucky. You can’t escape it. The scent will settle over the hearts of Ripon and Manteca having been gently carried on the breeze miles from the nearest orchard. It is an intoxicating aroma you can enjoy morning, noon or night. You open the windows and brave the still chilly night air so your dreams can be made all the sweeter. Venture into the countryside. Stop and smell the almond blossoms. If you do so today and make a repeat visit this weekend not only will your nose and eyes be overjoyed by the change but so will your soul. You’d understand that

A hat vendor at a previous Ripon Almond Blossom Festival.

beauty comes from starkness. Everything has its place. Bliss only comes from having known the pain. Spring is intensified having lived through winter. To not take in the wonder that occurs in February around Ripon and Manteca is a crime against yourself. Then, if Mother Nature cooperates, the blossoms will gently start fluttering to the ground in gentle breezes as the calendar edges toward March. It is here where you can enjoy a light covering of “snow” on the ground as billions upon billions of white and pink blossoms gently float to the ground over the course of just a

few days. It is a sight that is as symbolic as it is a visual treat. The dance of the almond blossoms is the first act in a non-stop show that continues virtually unabated until December when Mother Nature in the San Joaquin Valley slips not into a deep sleep as she does in the Midwest, South, East and Pacific Northwest but into a gentle slumber. What better way to come out of that slumber than to answer the call of the grand lady of the earth’s siren call in all of its white and pink glory. And what better way to enjoy it than a day at the

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Almond Blossom Festival

The Bulletin-Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Almond Blossom 2018  

Almond Blossom 2018