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Ashley Bloemhof blossoms as Miss Ripon

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Ashley Bloemhof blossoms as Miss Ripon

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POSTED February 21, 2013 1:08 a.m.

Ashley Bloemhof grew up a lot over the last year.

She learned how to greet people at business openings; how to flash a smile to people in other communities when representing her own; how to be a good example for younger girls that might be watching.

But most of all she learned to love Ripon even more – realizing that the cliché “small town feel” that everybody cites as a reason to live in the South County enclave isn’t really all that cliché after all.

On Thursday she’ll give up her crown after spending the last year as Miss Ripon – passing on the title and the sash and as much knowledge as she can bestow upon the young woman that will take her place.

The Bulletin caught up with her on Tuesday to find out exactly what is included in that knowledge, and whether there’s any uneasiness for the one that wears the crown:

What prompted you to want to make the run as Almond Blossom?

“I always wanted to do it growing up. I went to the parade every year to see all of the girls in their gowns and their crowns and I knew I wanted to do that. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it during my junior year so that I’d be around and be active in the community if I did happen to win Miss Ripon.”

What was it like when you heard your name called?

“For a few seconds I kind of blanked out. I closed my eyes, and from the picture I saw my hands apparently went up to my mouth – I was shocked and overwhelmed. It was such an honor and such a cool feeling. My head went blank there for a couple of seconds.”

What responsibilities did you inherit with the position?

“First and foremost, for that entire year and basically for the rest of my life, I knew I was going to be looked up to as a representative from Ripon – somebody that handles herself well and smiles when she greets people and sets a good example in front of little girls. I knew I had to be somebody that represents me and my school and my God well. And one of the things I found out was that you had to represent Ripon in front of other communities. The first parade I was I realized that people are looking at you and all that they know about Ripon is what they see in you. That was my main job – representing Ripon.”

If you could take you family and friends on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

“Australia. When I was a little girl and I got home from school I would watch Steve Irwin over and over and over again. It was my favorite thing in the world. I just thought it was so cool. I would love to go out into the Outback, or go to the Sydney Opera House. I’m sure they have a great city life there along the coasts – it’s just a place I’ve always wanted to go. I’d take my family and as many people as I could.”

What do you love about Ripon?

“I’ve always appreciated the small town feel. I know its cliché, but the older you get the more you appreciate it. I realize that there are people in the community that really do care about this place. It’s not a dirty town and there isn’t a lot of violence – it’s just a nice place to live. Getting to know people in the chamber and people from the council – I realize how much they really do care and how much they want this town to do well. That makes it very special.”

How do you like your almonds?

“Dipped in chocolate. Or covered in a tangy barbecue sauce. My dad would kill me if I didn’t say plain though, so plain as well.”

How much time was required to tackle the job you were tasked with?

“I had to make a couple of sacrifices. I didn’t do mock trial and debate class my senior year – it was a lot of work and I had to make sure I had my Saturdays open. That’s one way that I made more time for myself. Instead of doing homework when I got home from school I would go to business openings, and I spent a lot of time doing events like Color the Skies – setting up tables and working at the pancake breakfasts. And just recently I’ve spent a lot of time – Saturdays and evenings – with the new candidates. Basically showing them how to walk and how to speak during their interview and how to handle the process.”

What has it been like to be able to help the other girls knowing what you know now?

“It’s been really cool. It’s interesting to see it this way and very different. It’s a chance to give them advice and make sure that they’re doing things the way they’re supposed to be doing them – also making sure they don’t do something they’re not supposed to. Basically giving pointers the way that people gave pointers to us when I was involved as a candidate.”

Favorite type of seafood?

“I don’t eat a lot of seafood, but shrimp is good. That would be my favorite.”

What is your favorite part of Almond Blossom?

“Probably the festival. It’s really fun to see everyone together. You always see people you know, and meet people you don’t know. And it’s not just the rides – I like to go to all of the vendors and get the free stuff and see what they’re offering. That’s my favorite part of the whole weekend.”

Any advice you’d give to the girl that wears the crown next?

“I would say that if all else fails, just smile. Be as sweet and as kind as you can to everybody. It’s a fun thing to do – I’d offer my congratulations. But I’d also tell them that they don’t have to fit any particular mold – this isn’t a pageant, it’s a process where you can represent Ripon. Have fun and be willing to represent Ripon as best you can.”

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