Modesto-area residents, visitors enjoy busy day of family fun

naustin@modbee.com jfarrow@modbee.comMay 18, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

A sunny Saturday packed with promise awoke with organizers already sipping coffee and packing cars. By breakfast, Relay for Life tent cities were up and bike race barricades detoured downtown Modesto traffic. Festivals, fairs and fund raising filled the day as Angels Camp held the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee, Oakdale began its Chocolate Festival, Hilmar was home to the third annual Community Safety Saturday and Modesto saw a scattering of refreshment stands rise for the second Lemonade Day event.

Relays in Modesto and Turlock started off Saturday with hundreds walking. Teams will finish up this morning after passing the baton for 24 hours, raising spirits and building community. With every step, survivors and believers raised at least $400,000 for the American Cancer Society's fight against cancer.

Turlock volunteers erected a memory garden to honor lost friends as part of their event. About 1,000 walkers had raised $140,000 as the event started. Pitman High team adviser Linda Casey said 18 students had raised at least $100 each to be able to stay the night. "I think that speaks well to the youth of our community," she said.

Modesto's event kicked off with $230,000 in the bank. Organizer Sarah Scheuber said 102 teams were circling the Johansen High track, about 1,500 walkers and runners. Scheuber said planning would begin almost immediately for 2014, adding ideas and seeking donors.

The first lap Saturday was for survivors wearing purple "I Am Hope" T-shirts. Randy Beauchamp, the Patient Courage Award winner, released a dove to mark the start of the walk after speakers addressed the crowd.

Oncologist Dr. Chun Ng urged patients and friends to do simple things for health and happiness: exercise, eat healthfully, sleep deeply and find friends to whom you can talk. It was advice many followed Saturday.

A bevy of bikes

In downtown Modesto, the 18th annual Family Cycling Festival and Harvest Moon Criterium held a crowd on I street with bike races for adults and kids, a bicycle motocross — BMX — stunt show, free helmets for kids, a drawing for free bikes, free bike licensing, a rock-climbing wall, face painting and more. Wearing a helmet adorned with a spiky rubber mohawk, 5-year-old Julian Davis tested his cycling skills on a traffic-cone obstacle course set up by the Ceres Police Explorers. He also was looking forward to the BMX show, said mom Jessica Davis. Her mom, Corrine Davis, was impressed by the bike festival in general. "I like it — it's a family event, and all about safety," she said.

Standiford Elementary School student Isabella Becerra, 9, was back with her family for her second bike fest.

"I came here two years ago and won a bike," she said. She's still riding it, though with two years of growth under her belt, she may be ready for a new one. "I'm hoping to win again," she said, but added, "We're looking forward to getting a bike for my sister, Natalia."

Isabella is a frequent bike rider — in her neighborhood, to school, on the trails at Dry Creek — and said she adheres to the No. 1 rule of bike safety: "Always wear a helmet."

Cyclists racing in the Harvest Moon Criterium wowed spectators as they whizzed around corners of closed-off streets, and a pair of stunt cyclists with the BMX Pros Trick Team packed I Street as they did high-flying flips and spins and soared over the heads of brave kids willing to stand atop one of their ramps.

Dogs, frogs and chocolate

Slightly west of the cyclists, the Portuguese Festa Parade put history and cultural heritage on display. The walk, put on by the Portuguese Pentecost Association, ended with a barbecue.

At the park at the VFW Hall on West Hatch Road, about 32 children and their families turned out for Kids Catch a Smile Day. The event, started in Sacramento in 1992 and first held in Modesto in 2004, is for physically and mentally challenged children who don't have the ability to go fishing like most folks do. Saturday, the children fished in a 4-foot-high, 10,000-gallon pool that was stocked with trout. The state Department of Fish and Game provided the trout, and the Burbank Paradise Fire Department filled and then emptied the pool. The kids also were entertained by Shriners clowns; enjoyed face painting and other activities; and got to take home their catch, which was cleaned and kept on ice.

Downtown Oakdale bustled with the Cowboys and Chocolate Festival as more than 200 vendors peddled wares and tantalized the hungry. It continues today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Frogs hurled themselves toward the record books at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp, carrying on an 1893 tradition immortalized by Mark Twain. Frogtown includes entertainment, livestock, food and fun, with grand frog finals today. Tickets are $5-$12, open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Dogs took center stage at the Stanislaus Sheriff's Regional Training Academy as law enforcement canine teams from across Northern California competed for the title of "Top Dog." The 31st annual Police Canine Trial was sponsored by the Modesto Police Canine Association.

Lemonade stands pop up

On a smaller scale, Lemonade Day stands sprouted up and young entrepreneurs learned business basics and how to raise money for good causes. Up bright and early were friends Brooke Bolin, Emily Peters and Morgan Peacock, who opened their stand at 8 a.m. in a bank parking lot at Sylvan and McHenry avenues. It was a bit early for lemonade, but by about 10 a.m., the girls — all 14-year-old Salida Middle School eighth-graders, said business was starting to pick up. They learned about Lemonade Day from Emily's mother, they said, and were going to donate a portion of their earnings to the American Cancer Society.

Elsewhere around Modesto, kids at Connections Family Center on West Rumble Road were raising money for the county animal shelter; 5-year-old Corrina Rubio, with a prime spot within the Family Cycling Festival boundaries, was collecting for her kindergarten class and to take a trip to Disneyland; and friends Kristyn Dexter and Madison Whisenand were set up in front of Don's Mobile Glass downtown. They were a block or two away from benefiting from Cycling Festival foot traffic, but business was steady if a bit slow.

Kristyn, 11, and Madison, 12, were raising money for Shriners Hospitals for Children. It's a cause close to the girls, as Madison has scoliosis and is treated by the hospital in Sacramento. The two also appreciate the business-basics aspect of Lemonade Day.

"It's teaching us how to build a business," Kristyn said. "We were given a backpack with a booklet on how to be an entrepreneur — tips and tricks."

Safety in the limelight

In Hilmar, safety came first with the third annual Community Safety Saturday, presented by GDI Insurance. Held for its first two years in Turlock, the event has moved to the grounds of Hilmar Cheese Co. It was a great location and a great crowd, easily a few thousand people, said event coordinator Jenn Myers of Capital Insurance Group. Big draws at the event included the KlaasKids Foundation — which provided families with digital photo ID and fingerprint kits, free DNA collection kits and more — and a child safety and booster seat inspection station offered by the the Turlock Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and others.

In the opening ceremony, Marc Klaas spoke about some of the tech tools the foundation has been involved in developing, Myers said, and Hilmar native and "Glee" actress Dot-Marie Jones said a few words, sharing childhood experiences of being bullied. She then settled in to talk with families and children one on one as she signed an anti-bullying book she's promoting, "Just Like You."

"Bringing Dot-Marie in was a big hit — a lot of kids were talking with her about 'Glee,' " Myers said. "It was a wonderful turnout today, and the community here is just fantastic."

Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin.

Bee local news editor Deke Farrow can be reached at jfarrow@modbee.com or (209) 578-2327.

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