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Darretta reigning as Almond Blossom Queen
The candidates stand during the presentation of the colors. - photo by HIME ROMERO
RIPON – Joie Darretta couldn’t help but get choked up when she was thanking her family Thursday night during the Almond Blossom Queen candidates’ introductions at the Ripon Community Center.

Little did she know that five minutes later she’d be crowned the 2010 Almond Blossom Queen – a title that will change to Miss Ripon after the 48th annual Almond Blossom Festival concludes on Sunday evening.

The Ripon Christian High School junior – who was awarded $1,000 plus an additional bonus of $50 for being one of the leaders in the sale of raffle tickets – could barely contain her emotions as she summarized the five-week long build-up to Thursday’s crowning.

The actual festival – complete with vendor booths and entertainment – is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Mistlin Sports Park, Jack Tone and River roads. The carnival is at the same location. It opened Thursday and continues today from noon to sometime between 10 and 11 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to sometime between 10 and 11 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to around 7 p.m.

The Almond Blossom Parade goes down Main Street in downtown Ripon at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“I just couldn’t believe it when they called my name. It was so surreal – I never thought when I signed up for this that I would actually win,” said Darretta after receiving the crown and sash from outgoing Miss Ripon Camila Sweaney. “This was such a great experience and it was something that I will never forget. All of the other girls were such wonderful people and we all became great friends – they are all beautiful people.”

While she thanked event organizers like Dorothy Booth from the Ripon Chamber of Commerce and Debra Emig and Debbie Marlow from Soroptimist International of Ripon, Darretta had a very special thank you for her family – who supported her through the entire process even when things got difficult.

“There were so many times that I felt like giving up and my mom just told me to keep going and stick with it and it would all pay off,” Darretta said. “I’m so glad now that I listened to her advice. This is such an amazing night, and I’m looking forward to representing Ripon for the next year.”

And according to Emig – who worked with the girls on a routine basis and helped them through the process that included giving a speech, writing an essay, and strutting down the runway at the Soroptimists’ annual fashion show – the relationship that the girls built with one another was something truly special.

“These girls really love each other and they all became best friends,” she said. “I have no doubt that this is something that they’ll truly continue beyond tonight – even though one of the girls is currently a UOP student and one goes to Ripon Christian. They have a very special bond that they built, and they’re all so elated that they went through this together and came out better for the experience.”

While making her final remarks prior to handing over the crown, Sweaney said she had absolutely no reservations about who the judges might pick because all of the girls were worthy to represent the community – showing the bond that she too built with the six candidates while serving in an advisory position throughout the contest.

“When I think of Miss Ripon I think of somebody who is confident, compassionate, friendly, talkative, and humble,” said Sweaney. “These are all things that I’ve had to build within myself over the course of the last year, and I’m a better woman because of it.

“I’m sure that by the time somebody else is standing up here getting ready to hand their crown over, they’ll feel the same way.”