• WHAT: 51st annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival
• WHEN: Friday noon to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• WHERE: Mistlin Sports Park in Ripon. From Highway 99 take the Jack Tone exit and head north to Ripon Road and turn right.
• ADMISSION: Free. There is a $5 parking charge.
• CARNIVAL: At Mistlin Sports Park Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
• PARADE: Saturday at 1 p.m. (see map on Page 5)
Kevin Tate would have preferred not to see the rain Tuesday that officially ended the spring-like temperatures in the Central Valley.
But there was really nothing that could knock the owner of the California Carnival Company from the cloud that seemed to come with his newest attraction – the rock-and-roll and LED-accented “Typhoon” that made its appearance last week.
On Wednesday he had his crew combing over nearly every inch of the brightly colored ride – which includes loud music, fog and a brilliant light show to add something new to the carnival experience – to make sure that everything was squared away for tonight’s official opening.
It took months to outfit, Tate said, and it quickly overtook the seven-story Ferris Wheel last week as the most popular in his fleet.
“It was originally supposed to go to Coney Island but we stole it from them,” he said with a laugh. “We try to add something new each year that we come so that it doesn’t get stale.
“We want to make sure that we’re offering our customers the best experience that we can.”
Tate and his crew rolled into Ripon on Monday, and had to work double-time on Wednesday to make sure that things were set-up and operational for tonight’s dollar ride night.
The carnival runs tonight from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Mistlin Sports Park on River Road.
Tucked along the back row of the midway were the Typhoon, the massive Ferris Wheel and “The Zipper” – still the most requested carnival ride in the world, Tate says. Each of them folds down onto a towable trailer, and takes about half-a-day to set-up.
“The big Ferris Wheel takes us about five-and-a-half hours to set-up, so if we have three days before opening we should make it,” Tate said laughing. “That’s true this week with the rain. But we were all so tired after last week, we just took Tuesday afternoon off.”
Smaller, child-sized rides were configured near the front, and a myriad of games were positioned through the heart of the carnival.
While Ripon’s Almond Blossom Festival will be one of the early stops in his long season – Tate is also booked to provide the entertainment at the Manteca Crossroads Street Fair and the Sunrise Kiwanis Pumpkin Fair – it’s one that he says he looks forward to.
“This part of the valley is where you get the chance to take a step back,” he said. “The people here are just friendlier and they allow you to enjoy your job. In the bigger cities everybody is so rude and you don’t get that there. They accept us as part of the community.
“We’ve been coming here a lot of years and it’ll always be one of my favorites.”