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Festival continues today, Sunday at Mistlin Park
Brittany Fonseca of Manteca-based Fun & Games works on an air-brushed tattoo on Rosalind Watson as her sidekick Mia keeps an eye on festival action. - photo by HIME ROMERO

• WHAT: 50th annual Almond Blossom Festival
• WHEN: Today 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• WHERE: Mistlin Sports Park on River Road in Ripon
• PARADE: Today in downtown Ripon at 1 p.m.
• ADMISSION: Free although there is a $5 per vehicle parking fee

RIPON — Tony Sidwell and his wife Rebekkah decided to take in the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival for the first time Friday afternoon.

With their two-year-old son Benjamin crawling around, the Modesto couple took a time-out in the cool grass of the Mistlin Sports Park – taking full advantage of the unseasonably warm weather that was attracting hordes of people on the opening day of the three-day festival.

The couple make it out to several festivals every year, and liked what they saw at the tent-lined corridor.

“It’s definitely a beautiful day, and it’s a nice peaceful fair,” said Tony Sidwell. “It’s almost too warm – makes you think that it’s June already.”

The festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Parking in the main lot at the Mistlin Sports Park is $5 and benefits Ripon High School’s Sober Grad committee. The 50th annual Almond Blossom Parade, which begins on Stockton Avenue, continues up Fourth Street before heading down Vera Avenue and winding down Main Street, will begin at the 1 p.m.

And the vendors couldn’t have been happier with the bright, sunny skies – a welcome change from the rain that has been known to plague the early-season festival somewhat regularly.

Kori Heuvel – who had a booth set-up for her Recollect Photography business – was looking forward to reaching out to prospective customers and continuing what has been an upward swing in business over the course of the last year.

In the 48 hours before the fair began, Heuvel booked four weddings, and the dry winter season has given her more outdoor portrait work. Getting the chance to reach out to thousands of customers and advertise her local business, she said, is a welcome opportunity.

“It’s good for us to get out there and be a part of the community that we work in,” she said. “We have some things planned that we’re hoping will help drive traffic and attract some new customers.

“We love the local community and how everybody supports each other. There are a lot of great families here, and I love getting the chance to be a part of their weddings and their special events.”

With the carnival located just next to the festival – the same way that it was set up when it was at the Ripon Community Center several years ago – young people and families get the chance to enjoy both aspects of the annual fair without the congestion that was an issue on Saturday with the parade route winding through town.

When Ripon High students Andy Bunting and Jonny Hamilton were done with their volunteer work guiding traffic in the parking lot, the two took in the festival and enjoyed the warm weather.

“I like all of this – the banners and the vendor shops and the friends and the carnival rides,” Bunting said. “I grew up here so I come every year. The parade is the biggest thing in town.

“But my favorites are the funnel cakes and the lemonade cups with unlimited refills. I’ll definitely be back here tomorrow for those.”