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Cherry picking, nursery browsing, cool ice cream shop plus 2-day watermelon festival
girl orchard
Photo courtesy of Lucky You Orchards Alyssa holds a cherry during an excursion last year to Lucky You Orchards that opens this weekend.

George Gershwin had it right.

It’s summertime and the living is easy.

And while the summer solstice doesn’t arrive for another 21 days, this weekend offers a quintessential South San Joaquin County summer experience opportunity without working up too much of a sweat.

School is out.

And the forecast calls for highs into the low and mid 90s on both Saturday and Sunday.

Possible ways to spend the weekend include:

*The opening weekend of the Lucky You Orchards for u-pick cherries west of Escalon.

*The two-day Crossroads Street Fair and Watermelon Festival  in downtown Manteca Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

*Leisurely day hiking among the riparian oak canopies at Caswell State Park south of Manteca and McHenry Recreation Area off River Road near Escalon.

*Cherry picking at Dell’Osso family Farms in Lathrop.

*The chance to cool your heels  — and satisfy your sweet tooth — on a warm summer day at ice cream haunts such as the Ice Cream Emporium in downtown Ripon.

Street fair & watermelon

Festival Saturday, Sunday

Manteca’s kickoff to summer — the 28th annual Crossroads Watermelon Street Fair — takes place Saturday-Sunday, June 3-4, in downtown Manteca.

Vendors have filled all 266 spaces for the Manteca Chamber of Commerce event.  

New this year to the kids watermelon games is an adult watermelon eating contest. That is in addition to entrainment both days and a car show on Sunday, June 4.

The two-day event that runs both days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. celebrates watermelons.

For more information, go to

San Joaquin County — specifically the fields around Manteca, Tracy, and Ripon — is the largest watermelon growing region in California.

 There are 2,170 acres planted in watermelon within the county.

In 2021 the Central Valley yielded almost 490 million pounds of watermelon. Of those, 196.4 million pounds were from San Joaquin County. That’s almost two-fifths of the crop.

Manteca-Ripon is home to the two most well-known purveyors of watermelons — Perry & Sons as well as Van Groningen & Sons that broker under the moniker Yosemite Fresh.


Cherries are ripe at

u-pick orchards

Most Manteca residents stick around Manteca, some head into Modesto and a few into Stockton, if they’re not commuting back and forth across the Altamont Pass.

Relatively few head east unless it is to travel to Sonora, the Gold Country, the Sierra or Yosemite National Park.

And of those that head east, most don’t check out Manteca’s backyard — eastern San Joaquin County.

This is the perfect weekend to do so.

If for no other reason, it is the start of the relatively short u-pick season for organic cherries at Lucky You Orchards.

Cool spring weather pushed back the opening date for cherry picking by three weeks in the orchards around Escalon.

 The Chinchiolo family’s u-pick organic cherry orchard that’s part of the Lucky You Orchards opens this weekend.

There is no fee to access the orchard at 16500 Louise Avenue just east of Murphy Road that also offers fere tractor rides.

The cherries cost $4.99 a pound to pick. Or, if you prefer, you can buy freshly picked cherries at $6.99 a pound at the stand.
The orchard is open both days from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Plans are to stay open on weekends through June as more cherry varieties ripen.

Corral, Bing and Lapin cherries are now ready to pick with Rainer cherries expected to ripen in a few weeks.

You could take Louise Avenue east out of Manteca to reach the orchard but it is not a direct route. It requires several semi-confusing jogs as — for whatever reason – the county years ago opted not to complete the entire length of Louise Avenue, leaving a half mile stretch missing.

The best way to go is take East Highway 120 out of Manteca past almond orchards and vineyards as well as the Ramos Country Corner at the highway’s intersection with Jack Tone Road. The Country Corner offers homemade pies as well as fresh produce.

Keep going until  you reach Murphy Road where you will turn left,.

Murphy Road will take you across French Camp Road and to the eastern segment of Louise Avenue where a right turn takes you quickly to the 16500 Louise Avenue orchard.

The website is You can book a set time for the free tractor rides although that is not necessary,

By doing so, however, they will keep you apprised of orchard offerings including organic apples at a different location closer to Ripon that will be available in September.

You can also pick cherries closer to home at Dell’Osso Family Farms from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday.

More than 1,000 trees were planted six years ago featuring Coral, Bing, Brooks, and Tulare cherries.

While the farm attractions that are offered during October won’t be open although a hayride to the orchard will be available, there will be a wide array of baked items using cherries available.

The list includes cherry cobbler, cherry jams, cherry turnovers,  cherry chip cookies, cherry pie, cherry chip cookies, and cherry doughnuts.

Cherries on the Farm is located at Manthey Road and Interstate 5 in Lathrop.

For more information, go to


Combining cherry picking

with other local attractions

You can make a trip to pick your own cherries a low-key family excursion with stops at other family-friendly backyard attractions.

Heading out to Lucky You Orchards, you can drop by as Poots Cactus Nursery on East Highway 120 .

Poots Cactus is beyond the left turn on Murphy Road and just after the first railroad tracks on the left across from The Wine Group warehouse traveling on East Highway 120 toward Escalon.

You will find the largest succulent offerings arguably in the Northern San Joaquin Valley including a lot of old growth cactus.

The website is

On the way back home, you can enjoy some ice cream to top off the day.

Arguably, the most unique option is the Ice Cream Emporium in downtown Ripon on the paver-lined 100 block of West Main Street.

 It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 2 to 9 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.

It’s about as close as you are going to get to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

It has the smell, the feel, and an indulgent ice cream selection.

It tops Baskin-Robbins with an offering of 37 flavors. That’s in addition to five vegan flavors.

The best part is the variety of topping, fruits  and sauces you can use to customize a sundae to your taste buds.

The place definitely lives up to its motto: A perfect treat for someone sweet.

The inside setting is ice cream parlor perfect to enjoy whatever treat you select. You can also savor your ice cream al fresco on the sidewalk and soak in the small town atmosphere.

The five options are worthwhile even though there are a lot of places that are solid go to places in the South County for ice cream treats.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email