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Ripon residents grew up along with festival

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POSTED February 8, 2013 12:31 a.m.

In all likelihood, Betty McBrian had no idea that the Almond Blossom Festival would become what it is today.

That’s according to her daughter Sharon Newburg, who was with her Thursday at the annual Fashion Show held inside the Ripon High Multi-Purpose Room.

“She and my dad (Leo) were always too busy during the parade and festival,” Newburg said.

Betty and Leo McBrian did team coverage for the first 15 or so Almond Blossom Festivals, she recalled. Her dad served as the photographer while her mom did the reporting for the weekly local newspaper, The Ripon Record.

 Back then, Ripon was a small town with several 1,000 people. The festival was held at Community Park and, with it, featured a crafts show with paintings by local artists, needle work, and pieces by youngsters from the local schools.

“The Almond Blossom Festival was much smaller back then but the parade was much longer,” Newburg said.

Clem or Clementine Mulholland was the organizer for the parade. She handled horses, which were part of the pageantry that also consisted of drill teams and marching bands.

Sharon Newburg recalled that, as young girl, she would ride her bike around town during the Almond Blossom Festival and was amazed at all of the happenings. “You can see that everyone in town was here,” she said.

Her daughter-in-law Debbie Newburg, who is a teacher at Park View Elementary, also had fond Almond Blossom Festival memories.

“I’ve been gone for the past 25 years,” she said. “But I thought it should have stayed in downtown.”

Debbie Newburg noted that since moving to the Mistlin Sports Complex in recent years, the event has lost some of its luster.

“It no longer feels local,” she said.

Diane Foley, meanwhile, is looking forward to becoming one of the many grand marshals. She’s a resident of the Bethany Home, which is celebrating a 50th year anniversary and receiving recognition at the upcoming Almond Blossom Festival.

Foley came to Ripon from Chico about four years ago. “We have almonds there but not the festival,” she said.

Foley and her husband were impressed with the present-day parade. She’s hoping to ride in the parade honoring Bethany Home and the “Blossoming of Age” theme.

“I’ve never been grand marshal with a group of 300,” she said.

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