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Almond queens ready to blossom
Dinner Thursday kicks off 52nd annual Ripon festival
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Ripon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tamra Spade and chamber President Janelle Zuidevaart discuss last minute plans for Thursday nights 52nd Annual Almond Blossom Festival Kick-Off Dinner at Spring Creek Country Club. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Seven candidates for Miss Almond Blossom in the 52nd Annual Almond Blossom Festival will be officially presented to the Ripon community Thursday night at the Spring Creek Country Club.

The festival is scheduled for the last weekend of February with the dinner being “a fun way” to officially begin the festival activities, according to the chamber staff.

The “kick-off” event will include the judging of the girls in private sessions followed by the candidates giving their three to five minute speeches before the dinner audience. Each candidate has prepared a specific speech relative to life in the Ripon community.

The festival has named Manuel Luis of the Ripon Grange as their grand marshal with the entire Ripon Grange membership being honored by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce. Grange President Al Cataeno is also expected to be at the dinner to wish the candidates well in their pursuit of the crown along with representatives of Blue Diamond Almonds Salida facility.

Executive Director of the Ripon chamber Tamra Spade said it is important to the chamber not to lose sight of the history of the Almond Blossom festival and bring back what Ripon represents.

Soroptimist International Club of Ripon has mentored the queen contest candidates for the past some dozen years and once again their Debra Emig is acting as the Queen Bee in directing the girls throughout their activities.

Kaitlyn Bradley is scheduled to lead off with her speech defining the Grange as being the patrons of husbandry.

The “When, where and Why of the Ripon Grange 511” will be presented by Kaylie Sheaffer while Jessica Carmona will explain the role of Grand Marshal Manuel Luis in the festival parade.

Francesca Arnaudo’s speech will explain what makes the San Joaquin Valley one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions and Alyssa Sikkema will tell her audience why Ripon is called the Almond Capitol of the World.

How 4H members help to continue the animal husbandry legacy is the topic assigned to Desirey Ormonde. Krista Tyhurst concludes the speeches with her explanation of what role the Ripon Grange plays in the agricultural industry.

Cost of the dinner is $35 with a no host cocktail hour beginning at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 in the Spring Creek club house.

The chamber staff is hoping to make this year’s festival the best ever in more than 50 years but they are sorely in need of volunteers to assist in putting on the Almond Blossom event.

Help is needed in the office as well as along the parade route the day of the parade. The chamber information booth must be staffed and the numerous vendors need to be assisted in locating their booths at Mistlin Park on River Road.

Chamber President Janelle Zuidevaart is putting out a call to high school students who have community service time to offer, saying the chamber would be more than willing to sign off their service hours between now and the end of the festival.

The direction of the parade is being reversed this year for the benefit of better traffic control and flow of the parade’s line of march. It will begin at the industrial area of Stockton Avenue and Fourth Street with the reviewing stand being set up on Fourth Street in front of the Ripon Community Center.

Dinner tickets may still be obtained at the chamber of commerce office on West Main Street. Each candidate has been given 1,000 raffle tickets to sell with the cash prize winner being named the night of the coronation, also at the community center.