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Cotta Park tree planting honors memory of late Manteca Garden Club president
Friends and family of former Manteca Garden Club President Vada McKinnon stand behind the flowering plum tree planted in her honor at Cotta Park off of Mission Ridge Drive Monday morning. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

Vada McKinnon would have been proud to have seen the flowering plum tree added to Cotta Park Monday morning.

Less than a month after several of her family members planted four rose bushes in her honor at the Community Rose Garden in front of the Manteca Senior Center, several dozen members of the Manteca Garden Club – the organization that she ran as president for several years prior to her death – gathered in the park along Mission Ridge Drive to watch the donated tree become a permanent part of the park’s fixture.

According to event organizer Hank Wiegel, the planting serves as both a chance to honor a lady that meant so much to the Manteca Garden Club and to keep with the organization’s tradition of beautifying Manteca any way that they can.

“With Arbor Day coming up we’re getting ready to plant five trees, and that will complement the one that we just planted today,” Wiegel said. “This is all about the beautification of Manteca, and this is just one more piece in making that possible.”

And with the weather finally starting to cooperate with green thumbs and outdoor enthusiasts alike, the busy season for The Manteca Garden Club is finally here.

Since 1953, the club itself has been active in various projects intended to beautify Manteca – including the Memorial Rose Garden, the garden at the Blue Star Memorial outside of the Manteca Public Library, and the “Living Sign” that spells out Manteca as visitors enter the downtown area.

According to current club president Sandi Larson, the regular monthly meetings of the club are often only the starting point for the activities of the roughly 40 members that fill the ranks – tending to the regular maintenance of the designated destinations on almost a weekly basis during the peak growing season.

“Right now is when we’re getting ready to start tending some of the projects that we have here in town,” Larson said. “We have a beautiful new tree in memory of Vada, and hopefully this project will help bring in new people who are interested in gardening.

“Whether you’ve been doing this for decades or you’re just getting started, there’s always something new to learn.”

Membership is open to anybody wishing to join. Monthly meetings are on the third Monday of every month at 12:30 p.m. in the McFall Room at the Manteca Public Library. Scheduled speakers begin on a designated topic at 1 p.m. Annual membership dues are $25 and assists with the beautification efforts undertaken by the club.

Through annual group-sponsored Manteca Garden Tour – which was halted in 2009 but will be held later this year – is the primary fundraising source for the garden club. The roughly 400 tickets sold at $15 each help fund the plants, flowers, fertilizer, and other materials needed for upkeep at various projects throughout the community.

For more information about the Manteca Garden Club, a list of upcoming meeting dates and speaking event topics, and how to join, visit the group’s website at

To contact Jason Campbell, e-mail, or call (209) 249-3544.