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Ten via for Miss Almond Blossom title
The trickle of rain that started on Jan. 30, which ended 53 days straight of no rain in California, left pearly droplets of water on the petals of early-blooming almond varieties such as these blossoms at an almond orchard. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival  has been put on hold for another year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Miss Ripon / Almond Blossom Festival Queen Competition is continuing as planned.

All told, 10 local girls were in competition for the prestigious title with the winner announced following Thursday's speech competition,

Included were Jaedyn Hendryx, Gabrielle Martin, Katelyn Cardoza, Rylie Kackley, Emma Phelps, Naomi Wilbur, Kalani Kahandawala, Brenda Vega, Abigail Thompson and Riley Rangell.

Most are juniors at Ripon High.

Hendryx is a junior at Connections Academy. Prior to that, she attended Park View  Elementary School and has two younger siblings — Mia and Lauren.

She's the daughter of Antoinette and Jeremy, a pair of hardworking parents, and has been a competitive tennis player for the past eight years,

Hendryx was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, undergoing treatment for 2 1/2 years. April 26, 2018 was her last treatment.

"Through difficult times, I have learned to stay positive and be grateful for family, friends and community," she recently said.

Martin, 16, enjoys singing and acting.

She's been involved  in theatre arts since the age of 6 and played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at the Cornerstone Community Theatre production.

"I've always enjoyed school choir as well as holding the position of the youth worship leader for my church, as my faith is very important to me," she said.

Cordoza, who also attended Park View, is recognized as a wrestler, and is currently ranked No. 7 in the state in her weight class.

"In my free time, I like to play sports, paint, hang out and meet new people," she recently said.

She proudly mentioned that she and her father once rode their bicycles from Canada down to Mexico.

Kackley is a junior at RHS, where she played both soccer and softball in recent years,

"Those are my two favorite sports," she said. "I also love animals and currently have a dog named Benji,"

Phelps, meanwhile, enjoys raising cattle alongside her brother Brett.

"We have been raising cattle for four years now and we each raise and sell steer at the San Joaquin County Fair every summer," she said.

Phelps has worked as a nanny and is involved in ASB Leadership at RHS. She's also involved in soccer and Link Crew.
Wilbur is the junior class president at RHS.

"Outside of being involved at Ripon High, I have been dancing for 14 years at 5678 Dance Studio in Modesto," she said.

Phelps is on the competition team and, for the past four years, is the Junior Instructor at the studio,
Kahandawala was born in Toronto and is still a Canadian at heart.

At RHS, she enjoys the competition of track and field and still enjoys dance.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've had a love for track and field and dance though I let go of dance to give my commitment to track," said Kahandawala, who dreams of becoming a marine biologist or a doctor.

Vega has always dreamed of becoming a queen.

At a young age, she imagined wearing beautiful dresses and tiaras while proudly in the back of a car during a parade.

Vega is the daughter of Jose and Imelda Vega. She was born in Salt Lake City and moved to Ripon at a young age, attending Park View.

Thompson is involved in Journalism, Link Crew, Girls League, Pre Med Club and Student Senate at RHS.

Her plans include going to college and majoring in Nursing.

"My ultimate goal in life is to strive to obtain my desired hopes for the future," said Thompson.

Rangel enjoys outdoor activities and player sports.

She played volleyball for two years and excelled in wrestling for two years, qualifying for Masters both years in her weight class.

Rangel also competed in track and field in the shot put and discus.

She also enjoys being in the RHS Band along with fishing, hiking and camping.

"Things have been very hard this year on everyone and I'm hoping that this competition can spread a little ray of sunshine down on the town of Ripon," Rangel said.