By DENNIS WYATT
209 Living reporter
It’s not too hard to figure out why the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival on Feb. 26-28 is a perennial favorite for many in the 209.
The 54th annual event kicks off the festival season in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. It’s a chance to meander outside among vendor booths under welcoming skies whether it is sunny with fluffy clouds floating above an endless sea of almond blossoms or subdued shades of gray. Winter is in the run and spring is coming. And what better way to savor it than with a low-key, family friendly event.
For Ripon residents — present and former —it is a massive homecoming especially the day of the parade. Front yards are lined with chairs — and even tables with picnic style spreads — long before the 1 p.m. start time.
The parade itself is small town San Joaquin Valley-style on display. Its appeal and associated community events from a fun run to three community breakfasts, art exhibits and even a diaper derby are all crowd pleasers.
The biggest appeal, though, for those with no direct ties to Ripon is the festival itself at Mistlin Sports Park on River Road off Jack Tone Road north of the Highway 99 exit below the imposing 15-story water tower that’s top is painted like a gigantic soccer ball.
It is an appropriate setting surrounded on three sides by acres upon acres of almonds in the full glory of pink and white blossoms.
Admission is free although there is a $5 parking fee for those opting to park on the festival grounds. Hours are Friday, Feb. 26, from 3 to 6 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The carnival is open Thursday, Feb, 25, from 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 26, from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, from noon t11 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 25, from noon to 5 p.m.
It’s $30 to get unlimited access to all rides for a day at the Misltin Sports Park where the actual festival will take place Feb. 26-28. But if you purchase a one-day ride voucher in advance for $20 through the Ripon Chamber of Commerce not only can you save a third of the price but you can also help fund the chamber’s various community activities throughout the year. The chamber receives a portion of the advance ticket sales.
New this year is the ability to use advance vouchers for free rides all day for one-day on either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The day you want to use it for is up to you. You simply show up the day you want, take the voucher to a ticket booth and receive an all-day wrist band for rides.
Advance discount vouchers are available through Thursday, Feb, 25, at 4 p.m. or until supplies run out.
They are available at the Ripon Chamber of Commerce, 929 W. Main St., Ripon, (599.7519) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or at the Ripon Police Department on Wilma Avenue after 5 p.m. week days.
A wrist band isn’t needed on Thursday, Feb. 25, as that is California Carnivals’ $1 per ride all day event. The queen crowning takes place on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Ripon Community Center.