Pear Blossom fair has room to grow
From Samuel Dunlap's perspective, the portable climbing wall might as well have towered 50 feet above the Hawthorne Park grass.
It was closer to 20 feet, but even so Dunlap saw it as a rite of pre-teen passage. Just like any other mountain, it had to be climbed.
"I had to have a few hints, but I conquered my fear," Dunlap said. "My hands are still shaking."
If the organizers of the Pear Blossom Spring Fair had any fear that Pear Blossom celebrants might overlook the event's new venue, their doubts were soon put to rest as thousands flocked to Bear Creek's east bank to buy, sell, play and party.
"This is a great park and it's really under-utilized," said Rosie Niemeyer of Medford. "This gives them room to expand. With people coming from out of town, it contributes to people seeing the area."
The difference was apparent for Dan McLaren and Barbara Cole of Medford as they rested on a retaining wall.
"Last year, the company I work for had an event downtown, and it was so claustrophobic that people didn't want to be engaged and would walk right past."
The change in location appealed to the young, old, stroller pushers, wheelchair riders, cyclists and dogs.
"Last year, the herd just pushed you," Cole said. "There might be the same amount of people, but it's easier to see and be part of things."
The scores of parents navigating through the throng with strollers showed deftness, weaving through the foot traffic and leashed canines.
"It would have been nice if they had mowed the grass a little lower, but it's not too bad," said Delanie Cutsforth of Medford. "We had a hard time over at Alba Park with the narrow aisles, but even though this is bumpy, it's better."
After completing the 10-mile Pear Blossom Run earlier in the morning, Brian and Kelly Lambert of Eagle Point navigated around the parade lines to check out the fair.
"I always park behind the Y(MCA)," Brian Lambert said. "This is a much better place, but it seemed a long way to wander."
The trip to the park was a relatively last-minute decision for Lee Davis of Central Point.
"I saw the tents out there yesterday when I was coming home from work," Davis said. "There was no parking down there where it was before. This is much better."
With his daughter scheduled to play a Medford American Little League softball game later in the day, Jon Houston brought Samantha to Hawthorne Park to "check things out." They bought a necklace, sunglasses and food.
"We checked out all the booths," Houston said. "They weren't pushing the sales and prices were reasonable."
While lines of people were snapping up the usual high-calorie fair food, places to sit and eat were at a premium.
"This place is a lot more relaxed, although they could stand to bring out a lot more picnic tables," said John Pickett of White City. "It would be nice if they could combine this with the parade — maybe they could circle around the park."
The ponies and air dragon drew lengthy lines.
"There is just more for the kids to see here," said Anthony Martinez of Central Point, who made a point of getting to the park before the crowd got too big.
Tyler Miles, a 2003 South Medford High School graduate, frequented the Pear Blossom when he was growing up and participated in more than one parade.
"This is a good place to see people you haven't seen for a while," said Miles, who now resides in Central Point.
Bob McCray, a retired Forest Service firefighter from Merlin, was one of the beneficiaries of the expanded format.
"I go to craft fairs all over Oregon, Washington and California," McCray said. "I've wanted to start getting into the bigger stuff locally because travel is a big part of my expense."
For those wanting to step back a few centuries, a few hard knights defended their honor in mock combat, while lords and ladies looked on from a makeshift castle.
While her son wielded his sword, Aline Wilkinson surveyed the park.
"I skipped the parade this year," Wilkinson said. "I'm tired of the beautiful, old cars. Once you've seen a few 25-foot Bel Airs, you've seen them all. I want floats."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.