• WHAT: 48th annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival
• WHERE: Mistlin Sports Park, Jack Tone and River roads
• TIME: Festival grounds open today at 10 a.m. and includes a carnival.
And who could blame them? The annual celebration of the return of almond blossoms to the Ripon countryside doubles as a neighborly community gathering and a homecoming of sorts.
Two little girls Vana, 2, and Kaitlyn, 5, searched out their grandfather Ripon Police Sergeant Richard Kalebjian to get a hug and share a donut while he was clearing the street for the approaching parade.
Countless volunteers working together made the festival possible from the queen’s coronation and the Lions Club spaghetti feed to the parade and carnival that followed.
A member of the Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS) caught my attention as he shuttled carnival goers from a bus stop at the police department over to the Mistlin Sports Park on the hour. The shuttles resume today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. using the small City of Ripon bus.
Gary Moser served as that shuttle driver. He gives his all at the police department where he volunteers most every day of the week. Moser was recently named the volunteer of the year which speaks for itself.
Sgt. Richard Kalebjian credited Moser with being there whenever he is needed. He quoted Moser as saying, “If you need help, call, I don’t care what time of the day.”
Moser asked that we not say too much in the paper about him, noting he will have to buy donuts for the guys at the station – a big box because there are too many of them – that’s the rule. He has lived in Ripon for about eight years coming from Oakley in the Bay Area after he retired, wanting to move away from the traffic congestion.
He had worked as a tower crane operator on big projects over 35 years including the Oakland Coliseum and the Clinton Courthouse in Sacramento located near the train station. Moser and his wife both volunteered at the police department after their move, however she has since passed away.
It was a fun festival weekend with one of our sons coming home with his family including 3-year-old Andrew who was thrilled with the parade and the carnival where he showed me he had no fear with the rides he was willing to experience.
It is always fun seeing friends from the past over the three-day event. When we were standing in line to get our spaghetti dinner tickets Thursday night someone came up behind me and shook my hand saying, “I don’t think you remember me, Mr. Kahl.”
It was Tom Hand, now a physical therapist at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. You bet I remembered Tom from his high school days when he was in the Ripon Rotary youth Interact Program. Tom was one of three teens we had taken to a Rotary conference at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks, Nevada where they all made quite a professional presentation to the assembly there on youth involvement in their community of Ripon. All three of those kids are very successful in today’s world.
Following the parade we did quite a bit of walking around the community first going to the Immanuel Christian Reformed Church where we were told they had some great Sloppy Joes for lunch, but they were all sold out. From there we trekked up to the Ripon Christian High School gym for their advertised tri-tip sandwiches – followed by quite a hike around the Mistlin Sports Park checking out the carnival.
Speaking of the Mistlin Park and all that Tony Mistlin has given to the Ripon community as a benefactor, I couldn’t help intently watching that man walk through the carnival Saturday afternoon. He just slowly strolled through carnival attractions – pausing in thought at each one and seeming to enjoy every moment – obviously soaking in the fun he could see kids and parents having in what had become a sunny afternoon. While many would be considered to be well beyond their prime in their early 80s, Mistlin is working hard to take further positive steps in his life to benefit the community – very young in heart.
Another man who didn’t have to work the parade or be on foot patrol at the carnival was Police Chief Richard Bull. He was there in full uniform all day long working as just another officer on the beat to ensure the peace while chatting with the crowds.
Of special note was the Ripon High School JROTC for their professionalism in the parade ranks. They were a sharp-looking group and their rifle drill team did themselves proud as well.