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Ripon festival In fashion for 50 years

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Miss Ripon Taylor Ray, center, poses with all of the 2012 Almond Blossom Queen candidates onstage after the fashion show Thursday.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED February 10, 2012 1:10 a.m.

RIPON — Graelyn Pope had thought that the annual Soroptmist International of Ripon Almond Blossom Fashion Show would be the event she’d have the most fun with as an Almond Queen candidate.

But as the event approached Thursday the butterflies in her stomach continued to swirl. They reached their crescendo when she peeked out from behind the curtain inside of the Ripon High multipurpose room and saw hundreds of residents taking their seats as the show got ready to start.

She thought she actually felt her heart skip a beat.

“I knew it was going to be something that would be fun but I didn’t expect that I was going to be so nervous,” she said just before the show began. “The bufferflies have been there all day. It’s nerve wracking knowing that you’re going out there in front of all of those people.”

When the show started, however, all of those nerves went straight out the window as Pope – the first model to strut down the runway – exercised her first trip with the style and panache of a seasoned veteran.

It was, after all, the chance to model off some of the clothes that she got to pick out with the other queen candidates – Lauren Westra, Taylor Clarke, Bailey Taberna, Jessica Apfel, Jenavieve Kisst, Michaela Dole, Lauren Hogan and Ashley Bloemhof – on a pair of group shopping excursions to the businesses of vendors sponsoring Thursday’s event.

“That was so much fun – we all laughed and joked and had such a good time. They had outfits that they kind of matched up to us and then we kind of mixed things in from there,” Pope said. “The clothes aspect is what I’ve been looking forward to all along, and to get to share that with the other girls was great.”

To keep in the spirit of this year’s Almond Blossom theme – the 50th Anniversary – past festival queens like Alyson Bartels-Van Groningen were tapped to serve as models as well. The 1998 Almond Blossom Queen said that much like Pope she was nervous when it was her turn to step out onto the runway for the first time, but this time she was actually looking forward to it – participating with her husband Michael and their four-year-old son Carter.

“When I was 18 it was definitely something that made me nervous. But not tonight – I’m just here to have a good time,” she said. “What I enjoyed about the year that I did it is that you get the chance to do all of the activities and then it starts up for the next group of girls. You know what it’s like to be there.

“I’d tell each of them just to have fun and enjoy one another – you get to know a lot of the people in the community that you’ll still know many years after. There are people here tonight that I got to know when I was the Almond Queen. But it takes work and you’ll be busy.”

Stores like Blush Boutique in Ripon, Bedazzled Boutique in Escalon and Dress Barn in Manteca provided outfits for the event this year. Tractor Supply Company, Vito’s in Modesto, and Ragamuffin in McHenry Village were also featured, and Friends Salon not only offered to do the hair and nails for the contestants but also provided clothing and accessories.

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