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Almond Blossom queen hopefuls share tidbits about Ripon during kickoff event

The past 11 months have been a blur for Molly Ysit.

She’s the reigning Miss Almond Blossom/Miss Ripon who spoke at Thursday’s Kickoff Reception at Ripon City Hall.

Ysit recalled the process as being “nerve wracking but worth it.”

In that time, she’s been a part of grand openings and dinners along with being frequent guest at Ripon Chamber of Commerce events.

“I’ve enjoyed spending time there and getting to know everyone (at the Chamber),” said Ysit, who will have the honor of crowning the next Miss Almond Blossom / Miss Ripon for the 58th annual event with the theme ‘Celebrating 75 Years of Service to the Community.’

It will be one of the eight princesses involved in the Chamber’s annual speech contest.

Abigail Laswell, Zoe Barba, Madyson Valencia, Jordan Machado, Macie McPeak, Kelly Nguyen, Maliah Rodriquez, and Sophia Medina shared what they learned about different facets of their city that became incorporated on Nov. 27, 1945.

“Back then, it was evenly split on Ripon’s cityhood,” said Chamber President / CEO Kelly Donohue.

She added: “Seventy-five years later, we’re incorporated and blossoming.”

As for the princesses – all but Laswell, who attends Ripon Christian High, are juniors at Ripon High – each were assigned a topic that related to the many facets on what makes Ripon either unique as a community or the variety of services offered.

Machado, for example, met with Director of Planning Ken Zuidervaart on “Will Ripon Ever get an In-N-Out Burger?”

The likelihood of that appears dim for now.

“Population plays a big role,” she said one of the determining factors for the fast-food restaurant.

By that, Machado noted that In-N-Out favors putting franchises in cities with at least 50,000 population – Ripon is at 16,000 – along with an acre of land to accommodate some 15 cars in the drive-thru.

Nguyen met with retired Director of Public Works and this year’s grand marshal Ted Johnston on his 42 years of service to the city

“He started out as a garbage collector,” she said.

Nguyen discovered that his dedicated staff in Public Work to be “hardworking and skilled.”

Laswell met up with Johnston’s replacement James Pease on Ripon’s drinking water.

“The average Millennial probably thinks it come from a bottle,” she jokingly said.

Pease, who is the Deputy Director of Public Works, pointed out with a large map of the city’s “five highly regulated water wells,” she said, from the aquifers or the underground rock layers.

Medina discovered that the city currently has 78 employees on payroll from the five different departments – Administration, Planning, Police, Recreation and Public Works.

City Administrator Kevin Werner helped fill her in on the various rolls of each department.

Along those lines, Barba talked to police Chief Ed Ormonde on “Why Ripon is one of the safest cities in California.”

She said that one of the many reasons for that is “police and the community have a trustworthy partnership.”

Valencia learned about financing, in particular, the city budget, in researching her topic with Finance Director Lisa Roos.

Through City Attorney Thomas Terpstra, Rodriguez discovered the importance of his job including “helping city council achieve their goals.”

McPeak discovered how Ripon selects its mayor.

“It’s on a rotating system,” she said.

McPeak believes this to be rather effective for the five-member council because not only does it do away with any favoritism but “gives the people more of a voice,” she said.

This event, according to Donohue, was designed to build confidence in those involved while instilling a sense of community pride.

The winner will be crowned at the Almond Blossom Coronation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Ripon Community Center.

 So far, each went through a personal interview with a panel of three judges not to mention the speech contest.

The contestants will do a timed essay and perform at the annual Fashion Show at the Ripon High Multi-Purpose Room on Monday, Feb. 10.

The speech contest judges were Sally Gerbo (Gerbo Designs), Wendy Glaister (Wendy Glaister Interiors), and Joanne Ramos (Academy Mortgage). A secret judge was also in attendance – the identity of this person will not be revealed until the coronation of the next queen, Donohue noted.

The first day (Thursday, Feb. 20) will feature the bake-off in the morning and, later that day, the queen coronation at the Ripon Community Center.

Day two (Friday, Feb. 21) includes the craft and bake sale at the Ripon Senior Center along with the Antique Tractor Show at Mistlin Sports Park – the carnival will again be held there throughout the weekend.

The weekend promises to be a busy one with the Grange Pancake Breakfast (Grange Hall), the American Legion Auxiliary Breakfast (American Legion Hall), Breakfast Buffet (Ripon VFW Post 1051), the Fun Run (Mavis Stouffer Park), Craft & Bake Sale (Ripon Senior Center), Bake Sale (Immanuel Christian Reformed Church), Diaper Derby (Ripon High North Gym), the Almond Blossom Parade (downtown), and the Quarterback Club’s Brats & Drinks will take place that Saturday (Feb. 22).

The event will conclude on Sunday (Feb. 23) with the carnival and festival at Mistlin Sports Park.