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FUN IN FULL BLOOM

Almond Blossom Festival today, Sunday

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FUN IN FULL BLOOM

Leticia Solis, left, and Claudia Rodriguez set up their almond display at the Blue Diamond Growers booth at the 52nd annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival on River Road. From Manteca, take Highway 9...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED February 22, 2014 1:46 a.m.

The last time Blue Diamond Almonds had a booth at Ripon’s Almond Blossom Festival was over 20 years ago.

Back then, the event was held at the Community Center and the product was limited in choices, namely, traditional flavored whole natural, smokehouse and honey roasted almonds.

“We’re excited to be here,” said Darrell Nelson, manager of the Salida processing plant.

Spacious Mistlin Sports Park at Jack Tone Road and River Road is now home to the admission-free three-day festival. Featured here are food, commercial vendors, and arts & crafts, beginning at 10 a.m. today and Sunday.

Parking is $5. But proceeds are going to the Ripon High Sober Grad.

On Friday, Nelson mentioned the return of Blue Diamond Almonds to the festival came on the urging of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce and local almond growers.

What’s a festival of this sort without the biggest almond producers?

He brought plenty of products to his booth. Included were the new fruit-flavored and coffee almonds not to mention the oldie but goodie traditional flavors.

“We have 25 flavored (of almonds), from natural whole, to wasabi and soy sauce,” said Nelson.

Besides the flavors, he pointed out the health benefits of almonds, which, according to experts, are loaded with nutrition and may offer protection against some common conditions.

Among the newcomers to the festival is Amber Bray, who is the owner and operator of Outlaw Boutique.

The business featuring clothes, jewelry and apparel opened last October at 105 W. Main St., Ripon.

“I thought it would be a good idea (to do a festival booth) to get our name out there that we exist,” she said.

Bray started the business at home before opening a shop at Atwater. After a four-month run, she moved the boutique to Ripon.

Outlaw with a Cause is an organization that Bray created with “the heart of realizing that the world needs our assistance,” she said.

Take the clothing line, for example, where 100 percent of the profits will be donated to fund mission trips to poverty-stricken areas of Africa. It’s there that she is looking to help build schools and orphanages.

“Our five-year goal is (for Outlaw) to be a non-profit,” said Bray’s mother, Stephanie Christensen.

At this point, Brenda Struiksma isn’t thinking of a long-range plan. Her concern is simply to get through the weekend.

She and her husband, Bill Struiksma, along with their daughter Tiffani Beecher make fresh a pastry called oliebollen.

“It’s a Dutch treat that is traditionally served on New Year’s Eve,” Brenda Struiksma said at her ‘Holey Moley …Ollie Bollie’ festival booth.

Featured is the original oliebollen with raisin, apple cinnamon, chocolate almond and maple bacon.

The latter is Struiksma’s concoction.

“We thought what people are attracted to, especially men, is bacon. So we dusted some real bacon bits (on to the pastry),” she said.

Struiksma uses an old recipe that she learned from her grandparents. “I’m sure the (oliebollen) recipe came from their grandparents,” she said.

The taste of her pastry brought back memories to a few people, according to Struiksma.

She recalled a few people saying of her oliebollen: “Oh my God, my grandmother used to make this.”

Struiksma heard another utter: “It tasted just like home.”

She decided just last month to open a festival booth. “We were thinking maybe March or April but, because Ripon has a big Dutch population, that we should give it a go for the Almond Blossom Festival,” said Struiksma.

For now, she’ll let the weekend decide her fate.

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