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North Medford High School's band entertains the crowd along Main Street in downtown Medford during the 2014 Pear Blossom parade. Mail Tribune / staff photo

2015 Pear Blossom Festival kicks off in Medford

The annual Pear Blossom Festival returns to Medford this weekend with its signature running events, parade and other activities.

People who want to get an early start on the weekend can head to the street fair, which is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 10,  in The Commons park blocks, located at the intersection of Bartlett and Fifth streets next to the Lithia Motors headquarters building. The fair continues Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Musical entertainment will include the Living on Dreams Band performing jazz for the crowd at 5 p.m. Friday.

Food from more than 30 vendors will range from typical carnival snacks such as cotton candy and funnel cakes to Hawaiian, Chinese, Italian and Greek cuisine. Special attractions include barbecue vendors and a strawberry shortcake seller, says Toni Arnspiger, street fair event coordinator.

The Pear-A-Fare tent will feature beer, wine, distilled liquors, coffee and artisan food. The Pear A Fare celebrates the unique flavors of the Rogue Valley, recognizing outstanding chefs and artisan food, organizers say. Admission to the tent is $5, and includes five food-taste tickets. People 21 and older can buy a souvenir glass for $15, which includes 10 taste tickets.

More than 100 retail vendors and nonprofit groups will have spaces at the street fair, which will include face painting, art, crafts, an animal shelter display, a body-piercing trailer and bounce houses.

"We have a little bit of everything for absolutely everybody," Arnspiger says. "It's a lot of fun, and it's a great community event."

Thousands of runners will lace up their shoes and ready their wheelchairs for a series of runs Saturday morning. The 5K race starts at 7 a.m. at the intersection of Oakdale and Eighth streets, followed by the 7:50 start of the Mayor's Cup one-mile fun run. The main event, the 10-mile race, starts at 8:20, and the Mayor's Cup two-mile fun run starts at 8:30.

For runners who haven't registered yet, registration costs $30 for the 5K race, $36 for the 10-miler and $7 for the fun runs.

Race T-shirts cost $12 and come in a choice of blue with a women's cut or charcoal with a men's cut. Fun-run shirts cost $8, with the design created by a local elementary school student.

Running-event packets can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and starting at 6 a.m. Saturday at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA, 522 W. Sixth St. Participants are encouraged to pick up their packets on Friday. The YMCA will host an open house and free pancake feed from 8 to 10 a.m.

For more information and to register, see www.pearblossomrun.com.

The annual Pear Blossom Parade begins at 11 a.m. along Central Avenue in downtown Medford.

Launched in 1954 with local kids pulling wagons down the street, the parade has grown into Southern Oregon's largest parade. Expect approximately 150 parade entries and 4,000 participants, plus tens of thousands of onlookers lining the parade route.

Parking is on the side streets surrounding Central Avenue.

Area youths honored in the parade will include the 2015 Pear Blossom Pageant princesses from local high schools. South Medford High School's Rayna Zohar was chosen out of eight high school seniors for a $2,000 scholarship.

Jordan Zeigler and Caitlin Campbell were the first and second runners-up. Contestants were judged on school leadership skills, academic achievement, community involvement and essay writing. They also underwent interviews with community judges and answered impromptu questions on stage.

Winning children and babies from the junior pageant and annual baby contest will also ride in the parade.

The grand marshal for the 2015 Pear Blossom Festival Parade is Amy's Kitchen, a manufacturer of organic frozen and convenience foods with plants in White City and California.

Tickets are sold out for the Smudge Pot Stroll from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday. The 300 ticket-holders will stroll downtown Medford, tasting wines and sampling foods specially prepared by area chefs. The stroll begins at The Commons amphitheater on Fourth Street.

For more information about Pear Blossom Festival activities, see www.pearblossomparade.org.

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