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Madsen helped oversee contest for 18 years

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Former Miss Almond Blossom 1973 Carol Madsen and past Police Chief Red Nutt recall years of festivals in their past. Madsen also served as “Queen Bee” for 18 years charged with mentoring years of ...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED February 5, 2013 12:53 a.m.

It has been a journey through more than 40 years of Almond Blossom Festivals in Ripon for Carol (Weststeyn) Madsen and longtime Police Chief Red Nutt.

Weather is a gray cloud in Madsen’s memory with rain that poured down during her parade.  She recalls Nutt helping her to climb up onto the judges stand in front of Mar Val Market that is now the Ripon Library. Both were soaking from the storm.

“I remember the town being much smaller in those days with upwards of 1,500 people,” she said. 

Nutt had signed onto the Ripon department in 1965 being mentored by Sgt. Paul Stevens who died of a heart attack after a fight with a suspect.  Nutt noted that it was Stevens who taught him so much about law enforcement for his first year before he was sent to the Police Officers Standards in Training Academy.

It was after Stevens’ death that Nutt was appointed sergeant. Nutt was involved in 48 out of the last 50 festivals launched by the late Mrs. Clementine (Clem) Mulholland – also lovingly referred to as “Mul.”

“It was Mul’s strict rule that the queen would rise to her feet in the stands for every flag that passed in the line of march getting the rest of those seated nearby to stand up for the flag – it didn’t matter how many flags there were,” Madsen said.   

Madsen was named the “Queen Bee” to organize, mentor and monitor the candidates for each annual festival for the 18 years just three years after her reign.

Madsen remembers getting on a school bus with other members of the community and being driven through the blooming orchards to witness the blossoms.  Postmaster Bud Bodeson was sitting in a front seat describing the differing varieties of almonds and talking about the farms seen through the windows.

There was only a court of three girls vying for queen back then.

She fondly remembers the Atlanta Women’s Clubhouse luncheons at Five Corners (Jack Tone, French Camp and Lone Tree roads) where farm women would put together a fantastic lunch and dinner with pies of every description.  Coronation of the queen would be that Friday night.

Thursday night was the community baking contest that continued for many years until the Health Department put a stop to it, since baked goods were not being prepared in approved kitchens.  Many different schools, churches and clubs would rotate year to year profiting from the auctions of their baked goods to community members.  Pies and cakes would go for as much as $200.

In the year Carol Madsen served as queen, Nutt was charged with security for the antique and farm equipment shows during the nighttime hours. It was a time when the community had a deep respect for still keeping Sunday as church day with grocery stores closed on Main Street.

“In the early days we got help from the Sheriff’s Department because we didn’t have enough men to work security and direct traffic as well,” he said. 

Saturday morning the city would host breakfast for all the officers at the Blue Light Restaurant.  At night they would get dinner from the city at the Community Center.

Nutt said the presence of all the badges, uniforms and police cars kept the crowds well behaved.

There was a motorcycle troupe of riders one year that are still vivid in the chief’s memory.

“I was leaving the Blue Light Restaurant and I drove down by the Shell and the Chevron stations when I saw two bikes blow the stop sign – not in my town,” he remembered thinking.

As he drove his patrol car over the Second Street overpass in pursuit, he could see an entire string of riders below on Main Street.  He found the leader of the pack and had them all turn around into a cul-de-sac and asked them where they were going.

“We only had two cars on the street,” he said. 

They told Nutt they were in Ripon only to see the parade, being told they needed to park near the Congregational Church at Main and Acacia streets and not start any trouble or the police would finish it.

Nutt headed west on Main Street to Jack Tone Road where five Sheriff’s cars were coming into town to help with the festival.  He said he had forgotten to turn off his overhead red lights and the Sheriff’s units pulled in behind him.

It turned out to be a little comical as he headed back toward the parked motorcycles with the riders seeing what appeared to be the Ripon officer coming back with a motorcade of heavy reinforcement.  He had told them if they made trouble there would be enough officers to take care of any problems.

Ripon’s festival and parade was always the first of the year in the valley. It is the reason it had so many horses in the procession.

Madsen remembers the phone call from Mul in 1976, “Hey, what are you doing in January and February?”  She was being tapped to run the Almond Blossom Queen Contest.

“Son Christopher was born at the end of January and a week later I was at the chamber dinner.  I can remember chamber President Walter Funk.  He said I had broken the stork’s beak because my son weighted 10 ½ pounds at birth.  Christopher went with me to everything that year.  He is now 34 and is an attorney for Yahoo, doing the same thing he did in the private sector that he did for the government in Internet security.”

With daughter Lynelle, her due date was the Friday of the festival.

“We had all kinds of back up from the firemen in their booth making signs to me that they were ready to take me to the hospital.  I had Aunt Pearl Hoff who looked at me and thought I was nothing compared to her son Jay who weighed over 13 pounds at birth,” she said.

“I still see a lot of the girls as they are all living in Ripon.  Last year I had a lot of fun at the 50th anniversary of the festival, because I had connections with all of them.  Two of her nieces became a Miss Almond Blossom over the years: Sheri Carlson Heinrich and Tami Weststeyn Kuhlman.”

Madsen is currently doing all the bookkeeping for the family business, spending spare hours in her garden and laboring over her quilts.  And there are three grandchildren in tow:  Henry, 5, Theodore, 2, and Evie, 5.

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