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Bloemhof crowned as 50th Almond Blossom Queen
Outgoing Miss Ripon Taylor Ray finishes her farewell speech. - photo by HIME ROMERO

RIPON – Ashley Bloemhof better clear her schedule.

The Ripon Christian junior was crowned the 2012 Almond Blossom Queen Thursday night during the annual coronation ceremony at the Ripon Community Center, and could barely believe that it was her name that was called – showing the shock on her face when outgoing Miss Ripon Taylor Ray placed the sash over her shoulder and fit the crown over her made-up hair.

It was, after the dust settled, a scene that she was more than happy to be taking in.

“At first it was just complete shock – my brain went silent there for a while and it had to come back to me,” she said. “This has just been such a great experience. I have so many new friends, and I really got a chance to know Ripon in a different light.

“I’m looking forward to representing Ripon – getting to be at the grand openings of businesses, ride in the parades and interact with Ripon’s youth. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this.”

At the start of the process – which included a written essay, a personal interview, a fashion show, a speech and ticket sales – Bloemhof said that she loved Ripon because it was a safe community where you know most of the people around you.

She also noted that the heavy Christian influence in the community is something that she also appreciates about Ripon.

And while many of the candidates tend to clam up when it comes to being on stage or speaking before crowds, Bloemhof used those opportunities to shine – pulling from her experiences with school plays to make as big of an impact as she could on the judges.

“Those are the things that I actually looked forward to the most,” said Bloemhof – who will be referred to as Miss Almond Blossom through Monday when the title will change to Miss Ripon. “I don’t mind being up there in front of people – I actually enjoy it. I had a lot of fun doing it. The ticket sales weren’t my favorite.”

Central Catholic junior Jenavieve Kisst was crowned the first runner-up.

Outgoing Miss Ripon Taylor Ray delivered an emotional farewell speech that centered around how blessed she felt to hold the title bestowed upon her last year, and what she’s going to miss most – noting that the crown was easily her favorite accessory over the last 12 months.

“I will never forget this for as long as I live because Ripon is always a place that I will call home,” Ray said. “Ripon is my comfort zone. I always feel welcome here – the people have been so great to me.”

In keeping with the theme of the 50th Almond Blossom Festival, 22 past Almond Blossom Queens were on hand Thursday night, including Marjory Jennings-Hernandez – who was crowned in 1996.

Getting the chance to come back and be a part of the festival, she said, was a great honor and a way to keep the tradition alive.

“It was a fabulous experience for me when I ran, and I was in utter shock when I found out that I won,” said Jennings-Hernandez. “I think that it’s really, really thoughtful that they’ve asked us to come back and do this.

“It’s a lot of fun when you’re a mom and you can come back and feel important again.”