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10 seek honor of reigning over 2012 Almond Blossom
Bailey Taberna

Editor’s note: There are 10 hopefuls for the 2012 Almond Blossom Queen title. Profiles of five of the hopefuls appear today. The other five will appear in Friday’s Bulletin.

RIPON – There are 10 young women who will be making a very specific request of Santa Claus this year.

The 2012 Miss Almond Blossom title.

The annual contest – which drew its largest field ever – kicked off on Monday night when the hopefuls gathered to sign their contracts and ask any questions that they may have about the three-month period between now and Ripon’s biggest weekend of the year.

Here are five profiles of five young women vying for the title. The remainder will run in The Bulletin on Friday, Dec. 16:

Graelyn Pope

The 16-year-old Ripon High School junior says that she loves the atmosphere that comes with the Almond Blossom Festival – something that she’s taken full advantage of ever since moving to Ripon four years ago from Lemoore.

The daughter of a career Navy air mechanic, Pope said that she’s glad to call Ripon home because of the closeness she can feel within the community and the welcoming nature of those in it.

“I really like it here because you can just tell that it’s close-knit and that everybody knows everybody,” she said. “Lemoore was bigger and you didn’t really get that feeling that you get here when you drive down the street.”

While she still has a year left before she graduates, Pope – the daughter of Jill Hardin Pope and Shayne Pope – plans on attending either UCLA or UC Santa Barbara, wants to become a Veterinarian after completing her undergrad studies. She considers herself to be dedicated, radiant and tenacious, and applies those characteristics to her after-school activities like cheerleading and soccer.

She’s both CPR and first-aid certified, and can find work in the summer thanks to her lifeguard credentials. She volunteers at Bethany Home, has been on the honor roll every year since she started high school, and enjoys sewing, cheering and working with elderly people.

Michaela Dole

It’s been seven years since Dole moved to Ripon from the Washington hamlet of Silverdale – an unincorporated community roughly the same size as Ripon – and the 17-year-old Ripon Christian student has had no problem putting down roots in her new community.

Dole is involved in The Shakespeare Club and does makeup, hair and costumes for other performances on top of her athletic interests that include tennis and cheerleading. She remains active in the student body through Close-up Club and leadership and doesn’t neglect her faith by staying plugged in with groups like Daughters of the King and GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting The Savior).

She’s been honored for her outstanding academic achievement, and was named the most improved varsity cheerleader.

It’s no surprise then that her “bubbly” personality – which she marked along with sympathetic and loyal as her strengths – has helped her acclimate.

“It’s different but I love it here because everybody is so friendly,” said the daughter of Dan and Jamie Dole. “We would go to the parade when I was younger, and I would see the Almond Blossom Queen – I knew that was something that I wanted to do.”

Jenavieve Kisst

It wouldn’t be fair to mention Kisst without noting she’s a legacy.

Kisst’s older sister Alayna took the sash and crown in 2007 and allowed her to see firsthand what it’s like to spend an entire year as Miss Ripon.

But that won’t stop the down-to-earth Jenavieve from taking in the experience and making the most out of the chance that she’s been given. After all – what girl wouldn’t want to star in a fashion show and get the chance to ride in a parade?

“That’s something that I remember and that’s something that I’m definitely looking forward to – getting to pick out outfits, the fashion show,” she said. “But it’s also about meeting people and getting out there and being a part of an event that’s such a big part of this community.”

Kisst – a junior at Central Catholic High School in Modesto – has plans on attending a California State University and wants to be a speech pathologist. She considers herself to be athletic, outgoing and responsible – logging time as a volleyball, basketball and soccer player for the Raiders.

She’s also been a member of 4-H since she was seven years old and is the vice president of the agricultural club at Central Catholic.

The daughter of John and Tamela Kisst, Jenavieve enjoys fishing, sports, showing animals and singing, and volunteers at an elementary school on her days off.

Ashley Bloemnof

Ashley Bloemnof’s future is undecided. And that’s only because she can’t figure out which one of the three small private colleges that she’s going to attend and whether she’s going to pursue sports medicine or journalism at the one she selects.

To say that the rest of her life was figured out would be an understatement – especially for a high school junior that appreciates the community that she lives in for reasons that most high school students wouldn’t likely put down on paper.

“It’s a place where you feel safe and where you know a lot of the people around you,” said the daughter of Tim and Connie Bloemhof. “It’s a Christian-influenced community, and that’s something that really means a lot to me.”

Bloemhof considers herself to be “honest, reliable and energetic” and puts those into play during her seasons as a varsity golfer and soccer player. She’s also a member of the California Scholarship Federation as well as mock trial and debate – earning a debate championship round and securing a Presidential award as well.

In her spare time she works at the Ripon Christian Thrift Shop in Modesto, the concession stand at boys soccer games and in the church nursery and at children’s worship services.

She likes singing, playing soccer, golfing, mock trial, talking to her sisters and hanging out with friends.

“As a little girl my favorite part was looking up and seeing the Almond Blossom Queen in the parade,” she said. “I’m looking forward to this and getting the chance to know all of the other girls.”

Bailey Taberna

To say that Bailey Taberna loves animals would be an understatement.

The Ripon High School junior is already currently serving as the Ripon High School FFA President, and has already served as both the president and vice-president of the 4-H club – allowing her to focus her future towards one of a handful of ag-specific trades.

But when it comes to the 2012 Almond Blossom Queen contest, Taberna plans on wearing a dress just as well as the young woman right next to her. She believes that the experience will allow her to meet new friends and build stronger relationships with girls that she already knows.

“I think that it’ll be a chance to experience new things,” she said. “And it’ll be a chance to meet new girls in my community that maybe I have things in common with. I’m really looking forward to this.

“I think that there are some big life lessons that I can learn from doing this. I think it can help me become more responsible and allow me to develop some confidence.”

The daughter of Gina and Tony Taberna, Bailey also logged two years of volleyball at Ripon High and has volunteered with the Giving Tree program as well as a handful of 4-H-based outreach efforts.

She credits raising pigs and dairy cows, riding quads and traveling as her hobbies and says that she likes going to Starbucks with her friends.