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53rd festival in full bloom in Ripon
Head baker Collin Strasser stocks the Cobblestone Bakery booth during Fridays opening of the Almond Blossom Festival in Ripon. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The weather for the opening day of the 53rd annual Almond Blossom was ideal for this time of the year.

Try 61 degrees on Friday afternoon with hardly a breeze. Gina Winston, for one, couldn’t get enough of the outdoor conditions at Mistlin Sports Complex.

“I just moved here from Chicago,” said the representative of Farm Fresh to You.

Vendors and the carnival were the highlights for the event which continues through Sunday.

The one-mile and 8-kilometer runs along with Diaper Derby are scheduled this morning. The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. in downtown Ripon along Main Street, Vera Street, and and Fourth Street.

Winston, meanwhile, wasn’t missing the Midwest where temperatures were in the low 20s. The newcomer to Farm Fresh to You worked the information booth, providing information of the more than 130 varieties of farms located throughout the state is able to make deliveries to most homes or offices.

Farm Fresh to You has been farming organically since 1976. More information is available at

Patrick Caldwell was also enjoying his time at the Almond Blossom Festival.

He’s the owner and operator of Patrick’s Famous Pies featuring white sweet potatoes from Garcia Farms Produce in Livingston.

A former lost prevention employee at Raley’s, Caldwell, who lived in Pleasanton but recently moved back to Stockton, has been in the pie business full-time for the past eight years.

The 1987 graduate of Edison High got started by taking a recipe consisting of yams rather than white sweet potatoes from his mother that originated in North Carolina.

“I used to make it only twice a year – Christmas and Thanksgiving,” said Caldwell, who tinkered with the recipe until coming across the white potato.

That process took about two years. But he knew he had a winner.

Caldwell is kept busy by working special events – he’s been doing the Almond Blossom Festival for the past three years – and various farmers market, including the Bay Area, Seattle to Arizona. “We’ll do a show every weekend,” he said.

Business is expanding as Caldwell just opened a manufacturing facility in Lathrop near the Lathrop Police Department.

He’s working with SaveMart as one of his retail distributors not to mention other businesses.

Log on to Patrick’s Famous Pies on Facebook for more information.