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Almond Blossom Festival underway
Newly crowned Miss Almond Blossom/Miss Ripon 2017 Jessica Harlan, right shares a light moment as she tries to give outgoing queen Megan Harlan a kiss on the cheek during Thursdays coronation at the Ripon Community Center. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

It’s not too hard to figure out why the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival today, Saturday and Sunday is a perennial favorite not just for Ripon residents but for many in the 209.
The 55th annual event kicks off the festival season in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. It’s a chance to meander outside among vendor booths under welcoming skies whether it is sunny with fluffy clouds floating above an endless sea of almond blossoms or subdued shades of gray. Winter is on the run and spring is coming. And what better way to savor it than with a low-key, family friendly event.
For Ripon residents — present and former —it is a massive homecoming especially Saturday when the parade takes place in downtown Ripon. Front yards are lined with chairs — and even tables with picnic style spreads — long before the 1 p.m. start time.
The parade itself is small town San Joaquin Valley-style on display. Its appeal and associated community events from a fun run to two community breakfasts, art exhibits and even a diaper derby are all crowd pleasers.
The biggest appeal, though, for those with no direct ties to Ripon is the festival itself at Mistlin Sports Park on River Road off Jack Tone Road north of the Highway 99 exit below the imposing 15-story water tower that’s top is painted like a gigantic soccer ball.
It is an appropriate setting surrounded on three sides by acres upon acres of almonds in the full glory of pink and white blossoms.
Admission is free although there is a $5 parking fee for those opting to park on the festival grounds. Hours are today from noon to 9 p.m., from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The carnival is today from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
 It’s $35 to get unlimited access to all rides for a day at the Misltin Sports Park where the actual festival takes place.
Other Almond Blossom activities taking place include:
uALMOND BLOSSOM BAKE SALE: The Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, corner of Fourth Street and Orange Avenue, has several Almond Blossom Festival fundraisers planned for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There will be a bake sale specializing in Dutch pastries and long stem tulips from Dutch Hollow Farm to benefit short-term mission projects. A craft sale of masks, jewelry, flower crowns and LuLaRoe products to benefit the Friendship Club to help adults with disabilities is also planned.
uGRANGE ALMOND BLOSSOM BREAKFAST: The 55th annual Ripon Grange Almond Blossom Pancake Breakfast is Saturday, Feb. 25, from 6 to 10 a.m., at the Grange Hall, 827 Ripona Ave.
Adults are $7.50 in advance ($8.50 at the door) while children 10 and under are $5. The breakfast includes pancakes, eggs, ham, and milk/juice/coffee.
uDELTA TULE TREKKERS ALMOND BLOSSOM WALK: Delta Tule Trekkers will host a noncompetitive 5K and 10K walk during the Ripon Almond Festival.
The walks will begin from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday  and Sunday. 26.  The walk will be on paved, dirt and gravel trails along the Stanislaus River and over a pedestrian bridge.  Portions of the walk also tour the downtown area of Ripon
Starting point will be the Ripon Recreation Area parking lot at the intersection of Parallel and Reynolds Avenues.  the website at  or call (209) 825-0204.