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Almond blossoms in fashion again in Ripon
The 2011 Miss Almond Blossom Queen candidates are, from left, Shelby Pettus, Christa Bishop, Taylor Ray, Erika Alhambra, Lina Alahri, Rebekah Berryman and Samantha Conway with 2010 Miss Ripon Joey Darretta bringing up the rear. - photo by HIME ROMERO
RIPON – Five-year-old Veronica Trujillo drew a rousing round of applause when she made her first stop on the runway Thursday night at the Ripon Soroptimist’s annual Almond Blossom fashion show.

While she might have a few years of growing left to do, the future Almond Blossom queen set the tone for what was a lively and fun evening of fashion – one of several annual events that the seven Almond Blossom Queen hopefuls are graded on.

The theme for the 2011 Almond Blossom Festival – Ripon’s 49th – was all over the Ripon High multipurpose room as jersey-clad servers handed out whipped cream-covered strawberry tarts and a mannequin donning a Ripon High jersey and a Ripon Christian football helmet sat in the middle of the stage.

It was homage to the Ripon Quarterback Club for their years of dedicated service and the more than $350,000 that they have pumped back into roughly 75 sports teams in the community.

But while the theme was paying tribute to 2011’s honored organization, the event was all about the Almond queens and the three different trips that they made down the catwalk to the panel of judges – Helen Lopez, Debbie Cardoza and Judy Perkins – and the aura they exuded in the process.

To start things off, everybody who made the trip was wearing the latest in sports fashions from Under Armor workout gear to the perfect Nike golf outfit fit for a trip to even the toughest track.

Pianist David Dowell provided the music while Shirley Jorgensen gave the description of each outfit.

Eli and Ethan Day drew wide applause for their father-son coach and player attire during the first trip down the lane.

Brayden Haines was a huge hit with his cowboy hat and shoulder rope – courtesy of Tractor Supply Company.

For the next round, most of the queen candidates opted for the current fashions of Grace and Daniel in Modesto’s McHenry Village, while the men donned Italian-made suits from Kenneth’s Fine Menswear.

Sports Authority of Modesto provided the athletic-themed apparel, while Ragamuffin catered to the younger kids and Dress Barn in Manteca provided an option for the ladies.

The beauty of Thursday’s event came not only in the class that all who participated displayed throughout the evening, but in the sense of community and togetherness that came from the friends and family in attendance who helped support the Soroptimists and everything they do in the community by attending.

Shelby Pettus, Christa Bishop, Taylor Ray, Erika Alhambra, Lina Alahri, Rebekah Berryman and Samantha Conway all have something to be happy about – each one sparkled as they showed off the latest in early spring fashion.

It might be more of a paced run than a sprint for the Almond Queen contestants, but they all handled themselves with composed grace Thursday night, and that alone was worth the ticket price.