There were two Almond Blossom Queens crowned this year.
Unfortunately the docket only called for one.
So when Francesca Arnaudo heard her name called, saw the flash of cameras from folks that had gathered in the front row of the Ripon Community Center, and stood up to receive what was supposed to be the crown and sash from outgoing Miss Ripon Anna Fassler, she had every reason to be ecstatic.
The only problem was that she hadn’t technically won.
In what could only be described as a Freudian slip, longtime Ripon Soroptimist and Almond Queen Court advisor Debra Emig announced Arnaudo’s name accidentally – shocking everybody in attendance when, seconds after recognizing the mistake, she announced that she had done something terrible.
People looked at each other like it was a joke. Emig had cracked a few Thursday during her time at the microphone.
But when she reversed course and announced Jessica Carmona as the actual winner, the crowd seemed genuinely shocked – wanting to applaud the young woman who had just been named the 2014 Almond Blossom Queen, but not ignoring the fact that somebody was just announced as the winner and was standing up on the stage not knowing how to respond to what had transpired.
“I thought it was a joke,” Arnaudo said after being consoled by the family members and friends that had gathered to offer support. “That’s not to say that she (Carmona) isn’t deserving to represent the community – she’s great and I wish her luck in the future.”
Emig, who set the microphone down the table after announcing Carmona as the winner and walked out of the room through a side door, came back to give Arnaudo a hug and apologize – embracing her for several minutes in the middle of the room and offering private words of encouragement and explanation.
The event – the culmination of a six-week long endeavor initiated by the Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with its banner Almond Blossom Festival every year – is typically the official kickoff to the weekend festivities.
Chamber President Janelle Zuidervaart said that Emig might have been caught off guard by a camera crew from the UC Davis Children’s Medical Center that was there to film Arnaudo for a documentary – she’s a childhood bone cancer and leukemia survivor – that was being produced for the hospital. Arnaudo had been a vocal spokesperson for pediatric cancer when she was younger.
Not long before announcing the names, the camera operator walked up to Emig and clipped a camera microphone onto her shirt.
“Oh wow – Hollywood,” she quipped.
“I’ve talked to Debra, and all I can really say is that we all make mistakes and she’s really genuinely sorry about this,” Zuidervaart said. “I think that Francesca handled herself and that situation very well.”