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Fun ready to Blossom

Carnival opens Almond Blossom Festival today

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Fun ready to Blossom

California Carnival worker Carl Hiatt works 40 feet in the air on "The Ranger" midway ride to put the finishing touches on the Ripon Almond Blossom festival carnival that opens today at 4 p.m. at M...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED February 26, 2009 5:15 a.m.
RIPON – Getting everything ready for the Almond Blossom Carnival that’s expected to draw thousands over the three days it runs isn’t easy.

Wednesday afternoon, Floyd Idom took advantage of the early spring weather to make sure that all of the lights on the bumper cars were ready and working – using a ladder to manually test each and every bulb that are synonymous with the popular carnival attraction.

And he wasn’t the only one hammering away.

Throughout the afternoon, employees of Kevin Tate’s California Carnival Company – the same organization that has been part of the Almond Blossom Festival for at least a decade – were tackling the tasks that come with literally setting up an amusement park inside of a day.

One group worked side-by-side to line-up the mirrors on the merry-go-round.

Another man stood atop The Ranger – the massive contraption that propels riders skyward before inverting them and sending them plummeting back down towards the earth – running safety checks before actually firing up the ride for run throughs.

It’ll be the first time that the carnival has been held anywhere but the Ripon Community Center – a site that some residents complained it began to outgrow when parking for the tens of thousands of visitors became a problem. Those who lived on the street that the carnival was held on had severely limited access to their homes.

The move to the Mistlin Sports Park seemed like a no-brainer to organizers that recognized the endless open space and ample parking.

“I’m excited and I’m nervous at the same time – whenever you move a venue that’s been such a big part of the community, you always kind of wonder what the turnout is going to be,” Tate said honestly. “But the Chamber of Commerce has done an awesome job promoting this, and we’ve got a beautiful facility and we’re hoping that people are going to come out and enjoy themselves just like they always do.”

Part of the reason that says he looks forward to coming to Ripon every year at the start of his annual travel season are the people – always friendly and smiling and receptive to the customer service that he says his employees strive to provide.

While stereotypes are abound in the line of work he’s in, Tate says he does everything possible to try and eradicate them – instituting pre-employment drug and alcohol screening and mandatory Megan’s Law checks, and installing and enforcing a strict dress code that helps promote and foster a family atmosphere.

In the end, he says, it’s the experience of coming to the carnival that people are going to want to remember.

“The days of customer service where people go out of their way for you seem like they’re gone,” Tate said. “We want people to leave scratching their head because somebody said, ‘Yes Sir.’
“That’s the kind of environment we’re trying to present here.”

Pre-sale books of tickets are available through the end of today at the Ripon Police Department – with 30 tickets for $15. Those who purchase them can then use 25 of those tickets for an all-day wristband on every day but Saturday.

The events formally kick off today at 4 p.m. when Tate is offering a special $1 per ride event geared at bringing people out to the new site. The special prices will run through 10 p.m.

The carnival will also run on Friday from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 or 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
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