It’s not too hard to figure out why the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival on Feb. 23-26 is a perennial favorite for many in the 209.
The 61st annual event kicks off the outdoor 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 will be lined with chairs — and even tables with picnic style spreads — long before the 1 p.m. start time on Feb. 25.
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 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. 24, from 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 25, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The carnival is open Thursday, Feb, 23, from 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 24, from 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 26, from 11 .m. to 5 p.m.
There is a Saturday fun run. Community stage entertainment on the Saturday and Sunday, a teen night with live music at the park on that Friday.
On the weekend local groups stage various breakfasts, dinners, dance, and even bake sales throughout the community.
The event is staged by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
For more information go to riponchamber.org/almond-blossom-festival.
Mistlin Sports Park is accessed by taking the Jack Tone Road exit on Highway 99 in Ripon and heading north to River Road and the festival site.