From left, Meghan Ostler, 11, Natalie Ostler, 10, Hillary Ostler, 5, and Jessa Frick, 5, position giant lollipops on a float representing the children's board game Candyland.

Twenty are expected at Saturday's parade

Jessa Frick and Hillary Ostler, both 5, struggle with oversize candycanes as Jeannette Medeiros and Monique Ostler eye the model gumdrops, peppermint sticks and humongous lollipops that are transforming a flatbed trailer into a Candyland float.

That's Candyland as in the Milton-Bradley board game for tots, and float as in Pear Blossom Parade.

This year, the floats are back.

Organizers say there could be as many as 20 in this year's parade. That's up from about half that number last year, counting trailers pulled by trucks or tractors as floats.

In 1994, parade watchers were disappointed when only five floats trundled by, and organizers cited a lack of corporate and community support for the annual celebration.

Festival President Darcy Mann-Self says Pear Blossom organizers recognized that a lack of floats was hurting the parade three years ago and started trying to get sponsors for the groups that were interested in making floats in order to spread the work around.

It takes a while, Mann-Self says. The committee came up with a plan to get more students involved, get the community involved, get sponsors involved. We figured they could all work together.

Basically, the Pear Blossom sent out letters that they'd find sponsors, Medeiros says. They said they were gearing more to kids. I found out about it and nobody at the high school had snapped it up. We thought it would be really fun.

The Candyland float represents North Medford High School's preschool, and the work is happening at the Ostlers' home in Medford.

The 1998 parade goes off at 11 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Court Street and Central Avenue and winds up at the Jackson County Courthouse at West Main Street and Oakdale Avenue. Thousands are expected to line the route.

You'll recognize the Candyland float by its giant ice cream castle, its many-colored, board-game-like trail and Gloppy, the molasses monster that lives in the swamp.

We thought it would be fun, says Medeiros.

That was hundreds of man-hours of work and 2,000 hand-stuffed sheets of wrapping tissue ago.

The float meant a group of pre-school parents and high school students working the equivalent of about two-and-a-half work days, Medeiros estimates.

She says the high school students were allowed to substitute volunteer work on the float for other things they would have been required to do.

She says the group picked Candyland because it's popular with tots the age of her preschoolers, 2 1/2 to 5. In the game, players move pieces through Lollipopland and Candycane Land and try to avoid bad stuff in order to get to the candy castle.

Another school that took up the float banner is Washington Elementary School, with a theme of My Favorite Things Are Sport.

Valerie Waller and Sonya Rocha, Washington moms, had each classroom vote on what they'd like, tallied the results and helped the kids pick a winning theme, which turned out to be sports.

Washington got a trailer from KOGAP to put the float on, and space in which to build it from KOBI-TV, which chipped in with an empty studio.

Kennedy Elementary School, South Medford High School, Patrick Elementary School, Jewett Elementary School and Cascade Christian High School are among the other schools entering floats.