For months Abigail Laswell has been learning more about her community and the people behind the scenes that make things happen.
And that education is about to be extended.
Laswell, a Ripon Christian junior, was named the 2020 Miss Almond Blossom Queen on Thursday in front of a packed house at the Ripon Community Center – culminating the winter-long pursuit for eight local young women that were vying for the crown.
The daughter of Joseph and Lindsay Laswell, Abigail was all smiles on Thursday as she adjusted to her new crown and sash and the title she will carry through the weekend of the 58th annual Almond Blossom Festival.
“I was just really surprised and overwhelmed to hear my name called,” said Laswell after being crowned. “It’s been wonderful to get to know my community and getting the chance to be the best that I can be during this process.
“I’m really looking forward to learning about my city and serving in any way that I possibly can.”
Macie McPeak was named the first runner up in the contest, and the girls themselves voted Zoe Barba as Miss Congeniality – overwhelmingly selected because of the cheer that she brought to her fellow contestants at each and every event that was a part of the contest.
The contestants – Laswell, McPeak, Barba, Jordan Machado, Kelly Nguyen, Sophia Medina, Maliah Rodriquez, and Madyson Valencia – were judged in a number of categories including an essay, a speech, ticket sales, an interview, and a fashion show performance – accruing points from a series of judges who would choose the winner.
A mixture of students from Ripon and Ripon Christian High Schools, not all of the girls knew one another before participating in the event – something that Laswell said made the experience all the more memorable.
While she didn’t know any of the other contestants before signing up, Laswell said that she feels like she has seven new friends that she’s going to have in her life for some time to come.
“I didn’t know any of the girls, and these are friends that I’m going to have for a long time,” Laswell said. “I feel very fortunate and look forward to being able to serve my community.”
Festival starts today
The 58th annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival takes place at Mistlin Sports Park on River Road accessed from Jack Tone Road in a setting surrounded on three sides by blooming almond orchards.
That is where vendors offering everything from crafts, trinkets, clothing, and food — not to mention just about anything that is edible that can be wedded with almonds — takes place today from 3 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The carnival is also at Mistlin Sports Park today, from 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 22, from noon to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 23, from noon to 5 p.m.
Today’s activities include a craft and bake sale starting at 9 a.m. at the Ripon Senior Center, an open house at the Clarence Smit Museum from 4 to 7 p.m., and an antique tractor show at Mistlin Sports Park. The tractor show will continue on Saturday and Sunday as well.
Saturday, Feb. 22, starts off with the Grange Pancake Breakfast from 6 to 11 a.m. at the Grange Hall and the American Legion Auxiliary from 7 a.m. to noon at the Legion Hall, fun run starting at 8:30 a.m. at Marvis Stouffer Park, a bake and craft sake starting at 9 a.m. at the Ripon Senior Center, a bake sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church,, the diaper derby at 10 a.m. at the Ripon High North Gym, and the Ripon Quarterback Club Brats & Drinks at the Ripon Community Center from 1 to 7 p.m. The parade starts at 1 p.m. through the downtown district.
On Sunday, Feb. 23, the Ripon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1051 will host a buffet breakfast from 9 a.m. to noon at the post hall.
More information can be found at riponchamber.org.
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