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4th-generation Ripon resident Taylor Ray

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Taylor Ray, right, was crowned as the 2011 Almond Blossom Queen/Miss Ripon Thursday night. Next to her is first runner-up Erika Alhambra.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED February 25, 2011 2:23 a.m.
RIPON – Taylor Ray is going to have a lot to talk about at school today.

The Ripon High School senior was crowned the 2011 Almond Blossom Queen Thursday night at the Ripon Community Center, and could hardly describe the emotions she was feeling after outgoing queen Joie Darretta placed the crown and sash on the victor.

“I was shocked when they read my name,” Ray said, wiping the tears away from her eyes. “I was completely blown away. I now get the chance to represent Ripon, and that means everything to me.”

Early in the process Ray stressed that she took great pride in the fact that she was a fourth-generation Ripon resident, and said that she always harbored the desire to make a run for the Almond Blossom Queen title.

And she was quick to point out that she didn’t like thinking of it as a competition or a contest, but rather an opportunity that she and the other girls would get the chance to enjoy.

“I got the chance to meet these amazing girls who have become friends, and I learned about how much work actually goes into making something like the Almond Blossom Festival possible,” Ray said. “I’ve learned to appreciate it so much more, and I hope to learn so much more about this community and the people in it.”

Erika Alhambra will serve as the first runner-up, and will take Ray’s place if she were unable to fulfill any of her duties that go along with the title.

Ray will be referred to as Miss Almond Blossom until Monday when she assumes the title of Miss Ripon – representing the Chamber of Commerce at their events in the community over the course of the next year, and representing Ripon at various other community festivals throughout the region.

Each of the contestants were judged on their scores from raffle ticket sales, a personal essay, their speech at the kick-off dinner, their personal interview and their performance at the fashion show.

Joining judges Helen Lopez, Debbie Cardoza, and Judy Perkins was Sarah Hollander – who served as the secret judge throughout the two-month process.

And Darretta – who handed over the reins to Ray – spoke highly of each of the girls that she had the chance to work with throughout the process.

Darretta said that she had great faith in each of the seven contestants, and painted a picture of how far the girls had come as a group since the first time they were all together – nervously sitting around a table not saying anything to one another.

“I remember saying that by the end of this, you guys, will be the best of friends,” Darretta said in her farewell remarks. “And I think you all know what I was talking about that day.

“Standing here is really exciting for me, because I’ve taken great pride in representing Ripon and I can honestly say that I’m a lucky girl for being able to do this. I can’t even wait to see who takes my place, and starts a new chapter in her own life.”
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