Ripon’s rich history served as the theme Thursday for kickoff dinner party for the 56th Ripon Almond Blossom Festival.
The five hopefuls vying for the crown of the 2018 Almond Queen along with the title of Miss Ripon were introduced during the sit-down dinner at Spring Creek Golf and Country Club.
The queen candidates delivered speeches based on the theme of “Once Upon a Time” honoring the Ripon Historical Society. The Almond Blossom Festival takes place Feb. 23-25.
Ripon Historical Society President John Mangelos remarked at the end of the evening that all the active docents, as well as Don Blom and Connie Jorgensen who received an honorary plaque during the dinner, will be spotlighted on a float at the beginning of parade on Saturday, Feb. 24.
The 2017 Almond Queen, Jessica Harlan, noted she had gone to both Ripon High and Ripon Christian High School to recruit candidates for the queen contest.
The princesses are Kate Phelps, Gianna Smith, Savanna Mendoza, Elysia Medina and Saylor De Abreu. Much of what they spoke about in terms of Ripon’s history was gleaned from museum director Connie Jorgensen and a history of the community written by Mangelos.
Elysia Medina lauded the solid foundation of Ripon’s history with the hard work and dedication that went into the formation of the community. She noted that Ripon was established in 1874 by Amplias B. Crook who first opened a small store and then requested that the federal government open a post office. The city was incorporated in 1945 naming with Hans Madsen as its first mayor.
Princess Gianna Smith told the audience that the naming of Ripon had actually came from Ripon, Wisconsin. She added that all three Ripons including Ripon, England all have between 8,000 and 16,000 residents living within their city limits. Ripon in Wisconsin has the fewest with 8,000 living there, she said. In 1865 John Murphy developed a number of ferry crossings along the Stanislaus River, she added.
Kate Phelps pointed with pride to her hometown being called, “The Jewel of the Valley,” with some of the first Americans to visit the area as trappers under the leadership of Jedediah Smith, trapping beavers along the Stanislaus River. By 1890, Ripon had four schools with a daily attendance of 108 students, she said. They were River School, Zinc School, San Joaquin School and Ripon School with the first Dutch resident arriving by train from North Dakota in 1916.
Saylor De Abreu addressed the memories of those men and women who built the community by saying, “A community is only as strong as the individuals who made it up, saying “those early pioneers” did just that when settling on this land next to the Stanislaus River in the 1800s. She noted that the Europeans were the first to arrive with a group of Mormons who lived near the river in 1846. They left due to the flooding of the land from river water. The railroad came through in 1872, she added.
Princess Savanna Mendoza recognized the almond growers in Ripon noting that it is impossible to drive into Ripon without seeing at lease one almond orchard. She noted that the nearby Blue Diamond Almond facility in Salida probably sells almonds grown in Ripon, adding that San Joaquin Valley alone produces most of the state’s almond crop. She quoted second generation almond farm Don Schaapman who said his family has been farming almond orchards since 1928 in Ripon.