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Manteca, circa 2014
Little things still count
Want to have fun? Forget high tech gadgets. Matthew Duran shown smashing an egg on his head in a game of raw egg roulette with all other eggs being hardboiled, was among the Manteca Kohls associates volunteering to interact with Boys & Girls Club members during Easter week. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Old-fashioned Americana, some claim, is passé.

But as photographs taken this year by Bulletin photographer Hime Romero demonstrate, the simple pleasures in life still rule in the Age of the Smartphone in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.

And no one embraces the simple pleasures perhaps better than youth.

If you doubt that, all you had to do was to hear the Sierra High Wolf Pack roar as students cheered on the Timberwolves into Manteca football lore.

It can be seen in the splattering of an egg on the head of a Kohl’s Store associate helping kids at the Boys & Girls Club enjoy Easter vacation fun.

Yes, people still call it Easter vacation in Manteca just as they refer to the “holiday parade” as the Christmas parade. You won’t find many communities were youth and young adults alike dress in costume to create the Passion Walk on a four-mile venture through town as the Manteca Christian Worship Center does.

Congregations regardless of the creed of their religion don’t stay segregated in their respective houses of worship. They reach out as Crossroads Community Church does with their Second Tuesday volunteer outreach, the Mormons with their community volunteer work, Southside Christian Church with Friday Unity in the Neighborhood’s safe haven for kids, the Catholics and others with their food closets, and the Sikhs with their community endeavors.

People will still profess their faith in the public square as they did at Library Park while those that believe differently exercised their freedom nearby to discuss a world without God.

Education is treasured. You can see it in the classrooms of Ripon Christian High, during Sierra High Lobo Gold rallies heralding academic achievement, in the faces of Brock Elliott Elementary School students dissecting frogs, Great Valley Academy students staging bake sales to help feed the needy, and the proud smile of teens clutching their diplomas on warm evenings in  late May.

And it isn’t about “me” with the 18 and under set. Attesting to that are proms and other events high school students stage for special needs youth. It’s shown in Link Crews where the goal is to make incoming freshmen feel as if they are part of the high school family. It’s reflected in the large army of volunteers cobbled together through JROTC programs at Ripon, Manteca, Sierra, Lathrop, East Union and Weston Ranch high schools; student leadership classes, Interact, Kiwins, Scouts, Manteca Youth Focus, Lathrop Youth Focus, and others that man community endeavors ranging from serving food at fundraisers to planting trees.

There is a reverence for the sacrifices others have made. If you doubt that walk down Main Street or Yosemite Avenue on Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Day, Armed Forces Day, 9-11, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Flag Day. Those 2,400 flags lining the streets purchased by more than $60,000 in donations in  less than a month after 9-11 are put in place and taken down by hundreds of volunteers — young and old — to show their gratitude.

And every Memorial Day Weekend, nearly 30,000 people gather at Woodward Park to remember the fallen, to honor those who returned, and to express thanks to those serving.

Manteca in 2014 is a place where people open their hearts and wallets. In place of old-fashioned barn raisings of yesteryear those in need are often helped with fundraising dinners to cover medical bills. Seniors on limited incomes that remember what it was like to go without at Thanksgiving and Christmas set aside a dollar and change each month so they can help the Turkeys R Us drive’s goal of making sure no one goes without at the holidays. They give of their time and money to provide teen crisis counseling services, tutoring kids for free through Give Every Child Chance, provide a safe alternative to the streets at the Boys & Girls Club, and an array of other endeavors from the HOPE Family Shelter and Manteca Pregnancy Center to youth sports and arts organizations.

Volunteerism is second nature to many in Manteca, Ripon and Lathrop. The Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police are considered one of the state’s largest and most active units assisting law enforcement. There are many more volunteering through the Community Emergency Response Team and Seniors Aiding Fire Effort.

Coming together to enjoy life is also a part of the DNA of those who live in the South County.

It’s evident in no less than 16 crab feeds in the first three months of the year, dinner-dances, BBQ dinners, and car shows that are almost a weekly occurrence. It is amplified in events such as the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival, Manteca Pumpkin Fair, Color the Skies balloon festival in Ripon, Crossroads Street Fair, Ripon Main Street Day, and old-fashioned Fourth of July celebrations including a parade with impromptu street dancing fueled by an old-fashioned fire brigade hooking hoses to hydrants and cooling young and the young at heart as their frolic the street.

We celebrate the rich culture of not just our families but that of our neighbors whether it is Portuguese Holy Ghost celebrations, Cinco de Mayo, the Punjabi American Festival, or San Joaquin Swiss Hall gatherings.

This is still a place where farming rules even though we are in the orbit of Silicon Valley. San Joaquin County’s orchards and fields produce the seventh largest farm crop in terms of dollar value in California, the top farm state in the union. It’s where school farm programs in Manteca Unified and Ripon Unified thrive.

It’s a place where baseball/softball is still king as attested to by the 365-day-a-year operation of Big League Dreams. Soccer, though, is right behind it. And it’s where Friday nights in the fall still means highs school football.

Teens still head out to their favorite swimming hole in the summer or swing from a tree limb into the cool waters of the Stanislaus River.

Looking back on 2014, it’s safe to say we got it right in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.

It’s about people. It’s about kids. It’s about caring. And it’s about community.

Yes, 2014 was a very good year.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email