It didn’t take Megan Harlan very long to realize what had happened.
After more than a month of making her case to the judges in the 54th annual Almond Queen contest, the soft-spoken Ripon High School senior had her moment as she was crowned Miss Almond Blossom before her family, friends and a large cross-section of the community.
And she reacted the same way one would expect to react to such news – which is shock and surprise.
“I honestly did this for the experience and I never thought in a million years that they’d pick me as the winner,” Harlan said – wearing the Miss Almond Blossom sash and holding the Miss Ripon sash, which she will put on after the Almond Blossom Festival concludes this weekend, in her hand. “I was completely shocked.”
But she was also prepared.
The aspiring ag teacher – who plans on going to college at either Chico State University or U.C. Davis to major in agricultural science – said she knows exactly what she hopes to accomplish in the one-year that she’ll serve as a representative for the Ripon Chamber of Commerce and the City of Ripon itself at various functions throughout Northern California.
While it takes some people time to acclimate to the shock of winning something like that, Harlan wasted no time in outlining her selfless goals.
“My biggest thing is that I want everybody to feel touched and cared for and feel like they matter,” Harlan said. “That might seem like it’s impossible to do, but I want to reach out to that kind in the corner and anybody else and carry this position with dignity and compassion.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
The Almond Blossom Festival, which will draw anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people to the small San Joaquin farming community this weekend, serves as the major fundraiser for the Ripon Chamber of Commerce – the organization in charge of the Almond Queen court and the one that will reap the benefit of Miss Ripon’s representation over the course of the next year.
According to Rose Murphy, the chamber’s Finance and Event Director, community events like Thursday’s coronation are a symbol of what the Almond Blossom Festival is supposed to represent and provide the perfect launching point for a weekend of festivities that will draw from not just Ripon, but the region.
“All of these girls have deep roots in the community – some of them have mothers that have participated in this – and that just shows the fabric of Ripon and what it represents,” Murphy said. “Our town loves its tradition and this is a good representation of that.”