Walking the parade route – before and after – was a new approach for me at writing a column about the Almond Festival on Saturday. You have to admit I had the best seat in the house, never stopping longer than to chat for a few minutes with old friends, or those folks I had never met. After all, a friend is often only a smile and a handshake away.
The day started out at the Bulletin’s circulation booth at the carnival grounds on the north side of Mistlin Park where I was actually able to sell a subscription to a Ripon resident. The chill of the morning was still causing everyone to don windbreakers or sweaters.
Close by were the police volunteers command center where the association president was forced to bring donuts for the crew – all because he had his picture in the paper recently as their new leader with the rank of lieutenant. The volunteers do so much more than meets the eye for the working officers and they don’t get a dime for their efforts. They not only patrolled the carnival grounds but they were also assigned to direct traffic around the parade routes at closed intersections. Recently they provided back up and food for the officers working on the DUI cone line. Rumor around town was that the cops were partying more than they were working the DUI check point. Not true. I was there.
Before the parade got under way I started walking eastward on Fourth Street toward the launching point where Stockton Avenue crosses Fourth. An adult daughter of friends I have known for some 40 years was sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck in the driveway.
“Hey, there’s food inside,” she called in my direction. “Do you want me to take you in?” I thanked her and said I’d just take a minute to walk in and say hi to Chuck and Ann Hoag who have been more than hospitable every year. Chuck was a coach at Ripon Christian High School for a bunch of years and his wife was an elementary school teacher of note at Ripona – with a love for tennis.
Runs into former Colony Oak principal
A few blocks farther down I found Bob Prewitt, a former principal of Colony Oak Elementary School. He introduced me to a retired educator friend who is now a columnist for a weekly newspaper in 49er country. From there I seemed to find police officers at just about every intersection who took the time to say hello.
As I reached the starting point of the parade I noticed Police Chief Ed Ormonde was blocking southbound traffic on Stockton Avenue from interfering with the line of march as it turned onto Fourth Street.
The “hotrod” Shriners on their fast go-karts were doing formation drills in the intersection and getting close enough to the chief to add a little shine to his boots as they roared by within inches.
As I got up onto Main Street, I noticed activity inside Marissa’s Closet of high school prom dresses that I had to check out. Volunteers were busy inside as the parade moved toward its conclusion. The closet was readying for a Sunday afternoon deadline to provide 30 Ripon High seniors with gowns for the upcoming fashion show at the high school.
The racks suspended against the side walls had too much weight to bear and gave way dropping some of the more than 2,000 dresses onto the floor. Carpenters were at work repairing the damage. Three of them were trying to prove they had adequate resistance – by hanging from the metal shelves, all 600 plus pounds of their collective weight.
Lexi and her world-famous cookies
Next to the Bank of Stockton were a young teen and her mother with a table of cookies – five different varieties in all – that she was selling. Lexi Anderson, 13, is an eighth grader at the Great Valley Academy in Manteca and lives in Escalon. She has already raised some $2,000 that started with her support of her school’s trip to Washington, D. C. With her was 7-year-old friend Jaclyn Smith, who is a constant sidekick and helps in sales with her ear-to-ear smiles. Lexi provided the cookies for a volunteer luncheon of more than 200 people at Memorial Hospital just weeks ago.
That’s when I bought one of her cookies, going back and buying more they were so very good. Bulletin photographer Hime Romero was taking pictures from the reviewing stand where I shared one with him and to my surprise he gobbled it down. Next stop was finding a group of friends in the parking lot of Main Street Floral. Shop owner Kendra Hofman along with her sister Carolee, their mother Linda and dad Dirk set up a food table outside the shop’s side door for friends and family – and a score of kids.
Those cookies were a hit when I shared them. They gave me $25 and asked if I could pick up several more boxes for them. It was a pleasure for a family Mary Lou and I have known since the early ‘70s. And for Main Street Floral, it has taken on a great new look for such a small town as Ripon, complete with a gift selection.
At the end of the parade as I was walking on the sidewalk in the downtown, I heard a voice behind me ask, “Do you live here.” I turned to be greeted by a middle aged couple from Hayward. They came to Ripon just to enjoy a small town parade but they were specifically asking how to get to the beer garden at the Community Center.
Asking if they knew about the carnival, the man replied, “Oh, you have a carnival here too. How do we get there?”
At the end of the day I had to go back over and walk the carnival grounds to check on the Bulletin’s booth and see if I could help Editor Dennis Wyatt and Circulation Director Drew Savage. Wyatt was chatting with former mayor Red Nutt and Nutt seemed to have the conversation under control as the afternoon was winding down.
One thing that bothered me was seeing young children with small crossbows shooting at the scavenging seagulls flying low over the soccer fields. Granted the arrows had rubber tips but they were going high enough to cause injury to the birds if they made contact. Two of Ripon’s finest took time to chat with the parents about the proper use of those bows that they had bought from a carnival vendor.
Sore feet and ankles weren’t a problem until I realized I had been walking for about four hours – and some eight blocks from home. Gotta get in better shape I guess.