RIPON – The Christmas season is officially underway in “The Almond Capital of the World.”
More than a hundred residents filled the plaza behind the Mistlin Fountain Monday night for the City of Ripon’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony – an event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce that has grown to become a tradition for many in the tight-knit community.
According to City Councilman and Chamber President Red Nutt, the event serves as an open gathering for all residents who want to come take part and help foster a sense of community – something that takes on even more meaning during the holiday season.
“It’s a place where everyone is welcome and people get the chance to talk with one another,” said Nutt. “It’s all about starting off the Christmas season in a way that benefits everybody, and it’s something that people enjoy.”
Miss Ripon Camila Sweaney was on hand to flip the switch.
In what has become another staple of the community function, Barnwood Restaurant and Catering Co. owner John Mangelos was on hand to provide cookies and hot chocolate to those who attended – stretching the event out into a true social gathering where neighbors and friends mingled even after the brief countdown and ceremony concluded.
According to Mangelos, events like the tree lighting only help preserve the small-town feel that initially attracted many of the residents who now call the town home. In a day and age when people are often too busy to stop and chat with neighbors, he said, community-wide events help promote a safe place where neighbors look after one another.
“This is one of those events that really shows people what the essence of community is all about,” Mangelos said. “Tradition is one of the reasons that people keep coming out every year, and when you know your neighbors then you’re making it a safer place for everybody – you’re more likely to look after the people that you know and care about.
“It’s a great chance to get into the community spirit during the time of year when that becomes even more meaningful.”