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2017 Almond Blossom Festival
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The Ripon Almond Blossom Queen candidates honored their chairman Laura Roots Spence seen in the foreground and Cindy Barton, center, who performed etiquette training for the girls last weekend. Those in the first row are, from left. Kayla Hutto, Sarah Shipherd, Jessica Harlan and Genevieve Maurice. In the top row; Ashley Gomez, Desiree Cruz-Sampson, Miss Almond Blossom 2016 Megan Harlan, Kristin King and Nicolle Driesen. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Eight Ripon girls vying for the honor of serving as the 2017 Almond Blossom Queen delivered their competitive speeches on the “nuts and bolts” theme of the upcoming celebration that is honoring the long established Schemper ACE Hardware family.
A crowd of more than 200 people filled the Spring Creek Country Club banquet room Thursday night as the contestants told of the history of the hardware store that they credit with the finest service anywhere.
You can’t get more than a few feet inside the door when ACE staffers are there asking to help you the contestants agreed.  They also delved into the past of the festival staged by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce when it began as Simpson Lee Days sponsored by the Simpson Lee Paper Company located just west of the Stanislaus River.
The current 2016 Miss Ripon Megan Harlan thanked the chamber membership for allowing her the privilege of reigning throughout the past year as the Almond Blossom Queen representing the chamber of commerce and the city.
The late Clementine (Clem) Mulholland organized the event almost single handedly for many years and invited regional county and state leaders to her home prior to the start of the parade.  She and San Joaquin Telephone Co. owner and entrepreneur Talbot Kendall worked to make the visitors feel welcome in the small Ripon community.  Sheriff Michael Canlis was always on hand for the event in the ‘60s as were members of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors, assemblymen and state senators.
The 55th Annual Almond Blossom Festival is being held the last weekend of February over three days with a parade through the community led by the Schemper family as its grand marshals.  It’s a time when the community balloons to more than 30,000 people with visitors coming from all directions to take part in the parade and the carnival that is set up at Mistlin Sports Park on River Road where it intersects with Jack Tone Road.
The eight queen candidates just came fresh off a weekend of etiquette training under the direction of Cindy Barton who showed them skills that will help them through life from speaking to strangers at a club meeting such as Ripon Rotary to proper dress, tips in doing their hair and the setting of a formal dining table presentation.
Those vying for the crown include Kristin King, Ashly Gomez, Kayla Hutto, Desiree Cruz-Sampson, Jessica Harlan, Nicolle Driesen, Genevieve Maurice and Sarah Shipherd.
The queen candidates will be hosted by Bethany Home next week to a tea and the following week to a regular meeting of the Ripon Rotary Club where they will be urged to sell their festival tickets.  The girls have been going through town with their tickets – each having 1,000 to sell at $1 each.
Almond Blossom sponsors include Diamond pet Foods, Travaille & Phippen,  McManis Family Vineyards, Schemper’s ACE Hardware, Bank of Stockton, The Manteca Bulletin, Oak Valley Community Bank, Freedom Fire Protection, Inc., Alfred Matthews and the City of Ripon.
Three judges who oversaw the speaking presentations included Julie Mayfield, Bank of the West, Modesto; Dana Ferreira, Congressman Denham’s office and Victoria Krippner, regional manager, Kinetico/AAA Water Systems, Inc.

To contact Glenn Kahl, email