ALMOND BLOSSOMS TIE GENERATIONS TOGETHER GROWING ALMOND CROPSBy JASON CAMPBELL The Bulletin
When Dave Phippen walks through an orchard, he takes it all in – the sights, the sounds, and the smells of the cash crop blooming around him that has helped put food on his family’s table for generations.
And while the price that growers are currently getting for almonds is down and the struggles with exporting the abundance of the crop that is currently sitting in storage bins and warehouses are intensifying, it’s the thought of passing on his operation to members of his family that keeps him going.
“When I’m walking those fields, I’m thankful to God first of all for having the health to allow me to be able to be out there,” said Phippen of what keeps him going after decades of toiling in the San Joaquin Valley soil. “And I’m remembering the holiday dinner table, and the 8 or 9 grandchildren that hopefully will one day likely have a shot at doing what grandpa is doing – keeping the family farm alive.
“It’s about presenting the same opportunity that my parents presented my brother and cousin and I with Travaille and Phippen – to keep it going forward to that next generation.”
As tens of thousands get ready to descend on Ripon for it’s annual Almond Blossom Festival, Phippen has stayed busy checking the weather reports and the popcorn blooms that are starting to form on orchards throughout California.
If the temperature drops below a certain point, it’s dangerous to the potential crop – opening the door to frost damage that can wipe out entire orchards for the season.
All of the work to prepare to plant, to nurture the trees, and to keep them healthy – almond trees can take between 5 and 12 year to start producing nuts – can be wiped out seemingly overnight if the conditions during this precarious time don’t cooperate.
“We’re just getting some popcorn blooms right now, and the bee boxes are out, and those bees are really excited –we’re paying through the nostrils to have them, but we’re happy to be at this point,” Phippen said. “We just got by the frost danger this week by the skin of our chinny-chinchin and now it looks like we’re going to have some
For one thing, the abundant supply in warehouses means that brokers know that scarcity is not an issue with
“I think that the people that wanted almonds before still want them now, but the issue is that when a family goes to
economic conditions we’re seeing the ability to pay for food is a little bit worrying for us an industry.” Even though Phippen’s
always willing to have with people when they arise.
“I think the impact is even greater than we realize,” Phippen said of the
much discussion about the ethics of going into orchards for the perfect almond blossom photo, Phippen said that
IT’S TIME TO GO NUTS IN RIPON
Carnival, queen crowning, spaghetti dinner opens Almond Blossom Festival
A growing sea of white and pink almond blossoms can mean only one thing — it’s time for Ripon to go nuts while celebrating the valley’s bounty and the joys of small town living.
The 61st annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival — the first major community festival of 2023 in the Northern San Joaquin Valley — starts its four-day run Thursday.
It features plenty of fun activities including a family-orientated carnival as well as a festival complete with numerous vendors, food options and entertainment.
The setting for the festival is magical given Mistlin Sports Park where it takes place on River Road will be then be surrounded on three sides by blooming orchards.
That is where vendors offering everything from crafts, trinkets, clothing, and food — not to mention just about anything that is edible that can be wedded with almonds — takes place Friday, Feb. 24, from 2 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 25, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The carnival opens at Mistlin Sports Park on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 5 to 10 p.m. featuring “Dollar Ride Night.” It continues Friday, Feb. 24, from 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 26 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Thursday, Feb. 20, events include a bake-off from 7 to 10 a.m., the Ripon Lions spaghetti dinner from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., and the queen coronation at 7 p.m. all at the Ripon Community Center on Fifth Street.
The queen candidates are Ava Brocchini, Kylee Fullmer, Madison Hendley, Anniston Holck, Ava Keast, Payton Miller-Kay, Anika Schooland, Madeline Staley, Madeline Stewart, and Nayeli Zuniga.
The Friday, Feb. 24, activities include a craft and bake sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ripon Senior Center, Community Stage “Teen Night” Live Music at Mistlin Sports Park from 5 to 8 p.m., and the Ripon Quarterback Club Golf Tournament at Copper Valley in
Saturday, Feb. 25, starts off with the Grange Pancake Breakfast from 6 to 10 a.m. at the Grange Hall and the American Legion Auxiliary from 7 a.m. to noon at the Legion Hall, fun run starting at 8:30 a.m. at Marvis Stouffer Park, a bake and craft sake from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Ripon Senior Center, a bake sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the diaper derby at 10 a.m. at the Ripon High North Gym, and the Ripon Quarterback Club Brats & Drinks at the Ripon Community Center from 1 to 7 p.m.
There will also be live music on the Community Stage at Mistlin Sports Park from noon to 8 p.m.
Swiss Club Dance for those 21 years and older starts at 7 p.m. at the Ripon Swiss Club.
The parade starts at 1 p.m. through the downtown district.
On Sunday, Feb. 24, there will also be live music on the Community Stage at Mistlin Sports Park from noon to 5 p.m.
Additional information can be found at riponchamber.org.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@ mantecabulletin.com
Not many organizations can celebrate 100 years of service to a community.
The Ripon Chamber of Commerce has done just that and more.
According to CEO and President Kelly Donohue, her organization accomplishes many things in town, but much of that takes place behind the scenes and may not be immediately obvious.
She noted that the main goal of any chamber is to help to further the interests of small businesses in the area.
The success of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce is “because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us,” said board President Dr. Debbie Daniels.
In research conducted by local historian John Mangelos, several of those accomplishments can be traced to the 12 dedicated men who affixed their signatures to a document that set into motion the most prolific organization that Ripon has ever known.
On July 24, 1923, Frank C. Jordan, Secretary of State, signed the Ripon Chamber of Commerce Articles of Incorporation.
The chamber, before that, saw its beginning as the Board of Trade and Merchant’s Association, from 1914 to 1915.
It was newspaper publisher C.A. McBrian who was moving the force behind the formation of a chamber, along with fellow community members’ AJ Nourse (owner of Waterworks and the first-ever president of the Chamber), Vigo Meedom (banker), Andrew Douma (local merchant), Harold Davis (hardware store owner), C.B. Tawny (warehouse owner and ice dealer), George Bainbridge (farmer), Bruce DuVall (Ripon Lumber Company owner), Hubert L. Dickey (banker), Art Stuart (traffic officer), Joseph A. Bodeson (farmer), John Williams Garrison (butcher and constable), and Avon Tober Graham (restaurant owner and Ripon’s first chief of police).
One of their earlier works took place in 1931. The Chamber helped fund street signs placed at the Golden State Highway and Main Street. The Meyenberg Milk Plant – encouraged by the Chamber – opened in Ripon and was welcomed by the community.
A year later, the Chamber put
Van Dorst was the 1986 Almond Blossom
up two large wooden signs, one of each approach to Ripon.
The Chamber’s welfare committee stepped in to help the economically disadvantaged in 1933 by providing them with money during those tough times.
also assisted in the negotiation of
industry on the cover and encouraging tourism and business investments.
The Chamber was instrumental in getting six new streetlights installed in town and the hiring of someone to conduct a census.
There are some improvements to the town by the Chamber that remains obvious to this day.
In 1943, a property was purchased from Mrs. Davis to improve the approach to Main Street from Highway 99. The property was then deeded to the county.
The Water District was formed in 1944, the same year that the Chamber was purchased from the Nourse estate. Perhaps the most formidable time for the organization took place on June 4, 1945.
The Chamber drew up the articles of incorporation for the City of Ripon and moved forward in ratifying them.
The official seal of the City of Ripon was made possible a few years later thanks to a contest held by the Chamber.
In 1946, construction of the four-lane Highway 99 beyond the bridge took place. The Chamber, with an eye for modernization, played a role in having the sewer lines placed under the highway. The deed to the property where the current city hall sits was transferred to the City after 24 years of possession by the Chamber.
During the 1950s, the organization set sights on further benefitting the city and shaping the community to what it is today.
Included was the donation of funds to form a Recreation Commission, which procured 365 acres for Caswell Park.
Another move related to that was when the railroad closed the Southern Pacific Depot in 1958.
The Chamber worked to save it by hiring an attorney to fight the decision. The State Department of Budgeting and Planning recognized those rights and had Caswell Memorial State Park designated as part of Ripon.
Businesses such as Hayward Poultry Producers and Simpson Lee Papers moved to Ripon thanks to successful efforts of the Chamber.
Another big moment for the Chamber was the Olympic Torch passing through town on Feb. 8, 1960. The Chamber board had a plaque and the torch holder placed at Community Center Park for all to enjoy.
The inaugural year of the Almond Blossom Festival was 1963.
The Chamber hosted the first Main Street Day in 1986 followed by Taste of Ripon, a wine stroll to showcase local businesses founded in 1996.
The Chamber continues to create and maintain many events in recent years, including a few that have since become part of the tradition.
The Scarecrowfest was established in 2014 – this is a competition among the businesses to decorate and celebrate the fall season.
The Christmas Light Parade made its debut in 2016. This was a collaborative effort between the Chamber, the Ripon Consolidated Fire District, and the Ripon Police Department.
The following year, the first Bites & Beer stroll took place.
The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was a struggle for everyone.
The City of Ripon along with the Chamber and the community worked in collaboration to secure grants to help the local businesses during these tough times.
The history of the Chamber is a colorful one with more to come. According to Donohue, the board will never forget the fundamental objectives of championing “the economic, civic, and social welfare of our community.”
QUICK ALMOND FACTS
80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California and no other state in the US grows them commercially. The California almond farms span 500 miles of the Central Valley with 6,500 growers — 72% of which are family owned farms. *California is in a major draught and it has affected everyone, especially farmers. The almond board focuses on sustainability and has been working for more than 20 years on research to use water more efficiently.
Innovative irrigation and farming practices over the last two decades have led to a 33% decrease in water use per pound of almonds produced.
Almond varieties are “self-incompatible” which means that pollen of one variety doesn’t pollinate itself. Each orchard is planted with at least two, usually three different varieties in adjacent rows to allow for cross-pollination. The farmers rely on bees to move the pollen from one variety to the next. If there are no bees, almonds don’t grow so farmers rent honey bees for a portion of the year — about six weeks while the almond trees are in bloom.
Who needs Chanel No. 5 when you have nature’s perfume in the breeze?
Enjoy nirvana. We are in the sweetest days of the year.
And it’s the busiest dates on the calendar for tens of millions of bees.
It is part of one of nature’s most blessed unions. Bees zip through nearly naked almond branches to visit small buds just starting to split through the soft wood. In a matter of a short time those buds will open. Sometimes it seems to happen overnight.
REIGNING QUEEN: RIPON IS A GENERATIONAL TOWNBy JASON CAMPBELL The Bulletin
Briley Perez will always remember what it was like seeing the Almond Blossom Queen riding in the annual parade.
It isn’t every day, Perez remembers thinking, that a real-life princess is in your own city.
And this weekend Perez will get her final chance to inspire the next wave of Miss Almond Blossom candidates when she rides in the annual parade to bookend her year as serving the community that she has grown up in and come to love.
“I will say the parade has always been a huge things for me – I remember being a little girl and seeing all of the candidates and queen and it’s a fantasy for a little kid to see a reallife princess in your city,” Perez said. “It was very impactful to me from a young age.”
Perez, the daughter of Golda and Tim Perez, said that the year that she has spent serving the citizens of Ripon – spending the weekend as the Almond Blossom Queen and then the remainder of the term as Miss Ripon – has grown to love and appreciate Ripon on a much deeper level thanks to her participation in the longstanding tradition.
While she had the unique perspective of having attended both Ripon and Ripon Christian High Schools, Perez said that since her family isn’t as entrenched into the fabric of the community as some of the other participants she was able to learn a lot more about the town and what makes it special and unique.
“On a grander scale, this has showed me how important the Almond Blossom festival is to the people who live in Ripon – it’s a generational town, and you get to learn about the people and find out that their grandparents grew up here,” Perez said. “These are people that have a generational – a deep family connection – to this town and hearing the stories of people that have flown their grandchildren or extended families in to celebrate this weekend shows how special it is.”
A member of the drama department all four years she’s been in high school and three years
as a member of the “Knights Sounds” singing team, Perez said that she’s grateful for the opportunity to serve the community she loves – which allowed her to see the place that she grew up in a completely different light.
“I’m so grateful for all of the wonderful blessings and opportunities – it has been such a humbling experience,” Perez said. “The role of Miss Ripon is to serve the community and give back and I think that it’s important to emphasize that – not only in going to events to represent the city, but also in being there for the other candidates – serving as a mentor, helping them understand the process, and see things with different eyes.
“I remember where I was at this time last year and now, I get to help calm the nerves of another – it means everything to me.”
While lots of cities in the Northern San Joaquin Valley programs like the Almond Queen court, Ripon’s is unique in the fact that the title shifts after the weekend – as does the focus.
In reflecting on her time serving the community she loves, Perez said that she began to see the strength of that transition and how it keeps the titleholder focused on the job of service – something that stresses the responsibilities that come along with wearing the sash and crown.
“What’s unique about Ripon is it is kind of a dual-title role – for one weekend it’s amazing because you’re the Queen and everybody wants to see the Almond Blossom Queen, but after the weekend you become Miss Ripon and the responsibilities begin to set in. It becomes about being a volunteer and helping in the best ways possible and it’s so much fun.
“It’s amazing to see the impact that the role can have if done correctly, and it’s so much fun to see the community and it’s traditions from a different perspective.”
Perez is currently awaiting hearing back from colleges and lists both UCLA and UC Davis as her dream schools.
To contact Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.DENNIS WYATT Editor
Skeleton orchards start to shiver after losing the last rays of semi-warmth as the sun slips behind the Diablo Range as winter uses the chill of night to try and prolong nature’s slumber.
But then as the sun rises over the snow draped Sierra in the east the light of a new day backlights the most glorious sight ever created by Mother Nature — billions upon billions of delicate white and pink almond blooms bursting everywhere you look.
Spring doesn’t simply arrive in the countryside around Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon. It bursts open seemingly all at once but not in an in-your-face way. Rather it caresses the senses.
Feast your eyes on delicate creations that make cherry blossoms seem rough by comparison. Touch the delicate beauties and you are suddenly as nervous as a guy holding a newborn baby for the first time. They are so soft and new that you fear you may hurt them.
But then the biggest treat comes along. The bees have been busy. As the mercury inches up ever so slightly toward the magical 70 degree mark, the sun’s warmth gently bakes the blossoms creating a delightful scent that is more intoxicating than Chanel No. 5 announcing the arrival of a sweetheart. The air you breathe is filled with delightful reminders that the cold and sometimes gray days of winter were worth every second.
But it isn’t until night falls when the warmth of the mid-February day slips away and a slight coolness slip over the land that the real treat begins. On the perfect night, there is an ever-so gentle breeze. The steady stream of air washing ashore from over the Pacific Ocean makes its way across the Altamont Pass and through the meandering Delta to nudge the scent along as a gentle caressing breeze makes its way through orchard after orchard. It is best this time of year to leave your bedroom window ajar before you retire for a late winter slumber even if you still need to bundle against the cold.
That’s because there is not a more glorious way to drift off to sleep than taking in breath after breath of the sweetest perfume ever concocted — almond blossoms in bloom. As your body goes into sleep mode and your mind drifts away they help create the sweetest dreams of the year. And if you happen to awake in the middle of the night, your senses led only by your nose make you feel as if you are in Mother Nature’s arms bundled up with covers as you smell the sweet scent of rebirth. And, if you are lucky, the fragrant elixir will wake you in the morn. Who needs to smell the coffee when you can inhale the soft fragrance of almond blossoms?
It is little wonder millions of bees have no issue with being as busy as a bee. How can it be work when you get to zip from one almond blossom to another getting
intoxicated with the sweetest smell on earth?
Once you’ve taken in the first act of spring in the Northern San Joaquin Valley it is easy to understand how insects that can hurt so much when they sting can produce such a sweet golden treat that we call honey.
The days of February are the days that try the souls of almond growers. While we revel in the return of almond blossoms, growers fret about rain and high wind striking at the most inopportune time.
The early almond varieties started popping blooms here and there a week ago. Almond growers will tell you this is a week ahead of time. Mother Nature, if she could talk, would likely laugh at such a statement knowing full well that almond blossom time starts always on the terms of the brave buds that give the first signal that the glorious symphony of smells and sights she is cueing up is about to fill the countryside with a blazing celebration of life.
It’s a spectacle that makes the great works of arts such as Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” look drab and mechanical. Nothing flows as free or inspires as much as what the almond blossoms and what follows brings to the valley.
Forget about waking up and smelling the roses. That’s for people landlocked by asphalt and concrete. Get out and savor the almond blossoms.
Drive south or east from Manteca in the coming weeks and roll down your windows. You won’t be disappointed. Better yet park the car, get out, and walk along an orchard’s edge that is in full bloom. Unless you are unfortunate enough to be cursed with an allergy to almond blossoms, there is nothing than man has yet to bottle that can bring as much bliss to your nose.
This is the time of year I trade my 2 to 3 mile jog for a 6 to 8 mile excursion into the countryside heading down orchard lined country roads such as Manteca Road, Sedan Avenue, Alice Avenue and Veritas Road not as much to exercise my lungs and heart as it is to lift my soul.
In fields where growers still let grass grow in almond orchards, the dew moistened blades you jog pass that form green stripes between rows of white and pink blossoms creates a delightful scent of its own as the month slips closer to March.
It’s a decadent treat.
Almond blossom time also heralds the start of an endless parade of blooms and scents that the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s Mediterranean climate coaxes out of some of the most fertile soil in the world. By the time March arrives and almond blossoms have reached their crescendo, Mother Nature unleashes the final performance of the production that will lead to the shaking of several billion pounds of nuts up and down the Central Valley when summer draws to a close.
The sweet scent is waning as delicate white and pink blossoms start softly falling to the ground. The “Manteca Snow” — or “Ripon Snow” if you live in the self-proclaimed Almond Capital of the World — is the final act that brings down the curtain on the almond blossom season coating the earth with a gentle blanket of blossoms. Enjoy now unfolding in our backyard. It’s heaven on earth.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at dwyatt@ mantecabulletin.com
Dr. Debbie Daniels is current board president of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce.
The owner of the Ripon Veterinary Hospital, she along with Chamber CEO / President Kelly Donohue accepted a proclamation from the City of Ripon – as presented by Mayor Michael Restuccia at Tuesday’s City Council meeting – publicly congratulating the Chamber’s centennial birthday.
In celebration of 100 years, the Chamber was named the official grand marshal of the 61st annual Ripon Almond Blossom Parade scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, along the historic downtown.
The Ripon Chamber of Commerce established articles of incorporation dating back to July 1923 – the City of Ripon didn’t become incorporated until 1945.
It was Daniels who realized this was an important year for the Chamber to thank Connie Jorgensen of the Ripon Historical Society.
Jorgensen showed her the 1923 newspaper article from the Ripon Record about a group of Ripon businessmen who decided to form a chamber of commerce and had this organization incorporated with the state of California.
“This was too big an achievement and too big an opportunity not to celebrate,” said Daniels on her board’s decision to honor the Chamber at the 2023 Almond Blossom Festival.
She added: “Throughout 2023, we will be recognizing and honoring all those who worked hard to keep our chamber successful and vital for 100 years.”
Daniels is a graduate of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. In 1984, she founded the Ripon Veterinary Hospital and has long been active in the community, and is a past president of both the Chamber and Soroptimist International of Ripon.
Daniels also has had a Relay for Life Team for eight years.
Other members of the Chamber board are vice-chair Janet McMahon of Realtor-Keller Williams Realty; treasure Chad DeGraff of DeGraff Development Inc.; secretary Kyndra Wilson, owner of The Vine House wine bar & bistro; Darryl Bartels, State Farm Insurance owner; Jeremiah North, special projects coordinator / Ripon Consolidated Fire District / Kid Red Entertainment / MyRipon.com owner; Heather Hernandez, owner of Divine Salon; Jan Nowak; Carrie Sweet, owner of Discover Ripon Magazine; Rachel Venema,
owner / photographer of Rachael Venema Photography; and retired Ripon Unified School District superintendent Leo Zuber.
All share Ripon’s best interest and it shows.
“This is the best Chamber that I’ve been associated with,” said Restuccia, a longtime resident.
He recognized the Chamber as being “successful in education, promotion, and municipal relationships,” including the establishment of the Ripon Community Center, being instrumental in several economically beneficial businesses relocating to the City, and acquiring 365 acres for Caswell
Memorial State Park.
Along with the Almond Blossom Festival, the Chamber also plays host to annual events such as Main Street Day and Taste of Ripon.
Restuccia, in reading from the proclamation, said: “With a century of achievement behind it, the Ripon Chamber of Commerce is looking forward with a continued commitment to ensuring a vibrant and prosperous community for future generations.”
Staff and board members will be featured as the grand marshal of the parade.
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