Spring officially is a month away, but in the Modesto region, blossoming trees and the onset of seasonal festivals wait for no calendar notation.
Indeed, the first Valley harbinger of spring marries those two early bloomers this weekend at the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival.
But that’s just the beginning of pre- and early-spring events and celebrations across the region. From Chinese New Year to the annual Mother Lode homage to all things Celtic to the feting of St. Patrick, February and March offer a bounty of options for shaking off those winter cocoons and spreading your wings across the region. Here’s a look at just some of the offerings:
Ripon Almond Blossom Festival – Through Sunday. The 53rd annual event features a carnival, parade, fun run, diaper derby, art show and more. A parade through downtown Ripon starts at 1 p.m. Saturday; the festival, which begins Friday, continues 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Mistlin Sports Park, 1201 W. River Road, Ripon. Free. (209) 599-7519 or www.riponchamber.org.
Chinese New Year celebration – March 1. The 43rd annual Chinese New Year celebration from the Stanislaus Chinese Association will mark the Year of the Sheep with Chinese food, entertainment and a raffle. Begins at 5 p.m. at Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 L St. $18 adults, $12 ages 6-12; tickets available at Orient House, 805 W. Roseburg Ave., or Imperial Garden, 2045 W. Briggsmore.
Sonora Celtic Faire – March 6-8. A huge festival celebrating the cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Wales and all Celtic nations. The 29th annual event will feature jousting, Highland games, Celtic music, vendors and more. At the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 6, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 7 and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 8. $6-$28. (209) 532-8375 or www.sonoracelticfaire.com
Camellia Cavalcade – March 21-22. The 54th annual event will show off award-winning camellias in the Gallo Camellia Gardens, which feature 1,000 of the blooming plants. More than 200 camellia plants of various sizes will be for sale. 2-5 p.m. March 21; 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. March 22. E.&J. Gallo Winery administration building, 600 Yosemite Blvd., Modesto. Free. (209) 522-0147.
Knights Ferry Civil War Days – March 21-22. The Civil War comes alive in Knights Ferry thanks to the American Civil War Association. Experience how life was for soldiers, women and children during the war. Gates open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. March 21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 22; battle times 1-4 p.m. March 21; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 22. Knights Ferry Covered Bridge, 17968 Covered Bridge Road. Free. (209) 577-4790. www.acwa.org
Murphys Irish Day – March 21. Thousands annually gather in the historic Gold Rush town to honor its Celtic heritage with booths, art, food, wine, music, dance, jugglers and more. A parade will be held at 11 a.m. with the festival running 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Main Street, Murphys. www.visitmurphys.com.
Mother Lode Daffodil Show – March 21-22. Daffodils will be displayed in full bloom in creative artistic designs, horticulture exhibits and in photography. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. March 21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 22. Ironstone Vineyards, 1894 Six Mile Road, Murphys. Free. www.gocalaveras.com/calendar-of-events.
Luckyfest 2015 – March 21. Pub crawl featuring 25 pop-up St. Patrick’s-themed pubs for one day only. Comedy, dancing and music will be offered, including bagpipers from the Ripon Police and Fire Pipe Band, country, rap and pop. Modesto Centre Plaza, 1000 L St. Gates open at 3 p.m. $12. www.luckyfestmodesto.com.