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Ceres almond tree in countys fair exhibit
Shane Parson chips in almond tree for exhibit
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra (second from right), last week recognized members of the Stanislaus County Regional Tourism Roundtable for the effort to build a gold medal winning exhibit at the California State Fair. Others picture d here are Bryan Briggs of the city of Ceres; Oakdale Chamber CEO Mary Guardiola; Jennifer Mullen of the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau; LeeAnn Hoogestraat of the Stanislaus Alliance; and Linda Crabtree of Hughson. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

Members of the Stanislaus County Regional Tourism Roundtable were given kudos last week by Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra for an award-winning county exhibit at the California State Fair which ran July 12-28.

The exhibit, themed "Nuttin' But the Best," won a gold award and featured an almond tree plucked out of the ground of a Ceres orchard. The State Fair requires the county exhibits to reflect something in the country, often on aspects of tourism but preferably agriculturally related.

"The almond is very much a dominant crop here in Stanislaus County," said Lea Ann Hoogestraat of the Alliance.

"You did a great job representing Stanislaus County and its valuable attributes," the mayor told the group.

Hoogestraat said the group has assembled exhibits at past state fairs, which depending on theme can result in various degrees of challenge. The tree represented a challenge but was solved by Shane Parson, owner of Diamond Bar Arena at Keyes Road and Central Avenue.

"This year we had to get a live almond tree for our display because it was all about almonds," said Hoogestraat, who is also a Ceres resident. "Everything came together pretty well except the tree. I put the word out on the vine in the county here that we were looking for a tree and one of your city staff members said ‘how about Diamond Bar?' And he was able to connect us with Shane and Shane worked very hard for most of the day to get this thing out of the ground. It looked a bit limp after we got it up to Sacramento but there's good news. They're going to plant it in the farm there because it's still alive. A lot of people left sorry for the tree but we had great response to it. The children loved it. Adults liked it. It was very informative. The judges thought it hit the nail on the head and it represented the county very well."

She lauded the group that worked hard around a "very narrow budget."

The travel and tourism board started in 1999 and meets per month and includes Chamber and tourism related business people. The Ceres parks and recreation staff also helps. The board's mission is: "To promote a regional economic development strategy which celebrates local travel and tourism activities and includes all cities, chambers, and interested business/community stakeholders in a collective marketing and measurement effort."

During 2008, travelers to California contributed an estimated $96.7 billion to the state economy. In Stanislaus County this equated to approximately $403 million dollars in local revenue. Travel spending in 2008 generated $2.2 billion in local tax receipts statewide.

The group is always looking for volunteers to help on the state fair exhibits. Anyone interested in volunteering for the 2014 project may call Mary Guardiola at the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce.