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Punning on pears

Who says there's nothing new under the sun? This season's Pear Blossom Festival has a couple new wrinkles: a two-day street fair and cash awards for top parade entries.

The street fair, just one day last year, will return for two, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at downtown Medford's Alba Park. Look for kids' booths, pony rides, a horse and carriage, food vendors, things for kids to do and more, spread around 130 booths.

Area artists will set up for an art exhibit and sale at the nearby old library.

And don't forget to follow the money.

"For the first time, we'll have cash prizes for winners in each category of the parade," says Pear Blossom President Darcey Mann-Self.

In the past, outstanding parade entries were recognized with plaques.

The theme of the 54th Annual Pear Blossom Parade — "Famous Pairs" — is a salute to some of the usual suspects on the list of area civic leaders: the Carpenters, Frohnmeyers, Lausmanns, DeBoers, Newbrys and others from the movers and shakers crowd.

Why pair pairs with Pears?

"It didn't start with a pear pun," Mann-Self says. "We were brainstorming this summer. We were trying to find ways to honor people.

The honorees, nearly 50 in all, were chosen by a committee of 30 people from Medford and Central Point.

The festival does have a history of pear puns. In 1956 the theme of the first-ever festival was Blossoms from Pear-A-Dise. In 1978, the 25th edition of the event, the theme was "25 years of Pear-ades." That year actor Eric Scott, who played Ben Walton on television's "The Waltons," then at a peak of popularity, led the parade.

Growth was in the air. Organizers boasted the festival had grown to involve more than 40 organizations more than 100 floats, which had been allowed to be motorized just eight years earlier.

Other famous figures who have led the parade include then-Oregon Gov. Robert Holmes (1957) and then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy (1960).

Also new this year will be cash prizes for parade entries. There will be $350 for winners in the equestrian and walking categories, $300 in the unusual vehicle division and a $500 award for overall best parade entry. The annual event now has a budget of more than $15,000 including the pageants.

Mayor Gary Wheeler and Councilmen Bob Strosser and Al Densmore will be followed by more than 150 parade entries when the parade begins moving on the two-and-a-half-mile parade route starting at 11 a.m. at Central Avenue and Court Street, heading south to East Main Street and west past the street fair in Library Park.

Queen Victoria Mayfield, 17, of Ashland, will reign over the parade. She was chosen at the Scholarship Pageant on March 24th and won a $2,000 scholarship. She will be joined by eight princesses from area high schools, each the winner of a $500 scholarship.

Grand Marshals are Garth and Rosemary Harrington, conservative talk show hosts on KCMX AM-880. The parade will begin at 11 a.m. where Court Street, Central Avenue and Edwards Street come together in Medford. It will go south on Central to Main Street, turn right and go two blocks past Alba Park, where a street fair will be in progress.

Expect the parade to take about two hours to pass a given point.

Junior King Jack Roseborough and Junior Queen Taylor Savage are the 5-year old winners of the Junior Pageant, and will ride in the parade joined by members of their court.

A kids' float from last year won't be returning. Instead, kids will be riding with the grand marshals.

Five races will be featured for the Pear Blossom Run on Saturday. The races leave City Hall, at 411 Eighth St., and include a 5-K run that begins at 7 a.m.; a two-mile Mayor's Awards race at 7:45 a.m.; a one-mile Mayor's Cup at 8 a.m.; a 10-mile run at 8:30 a.m.; and a two-mile run/walk at 8:35 a.m.

The parade will be televised live at 11 a.m. on Rogue Valley Community Television Cable Channel 9 in Jackson County and Channel 14 in Josephine County.

The broadcast will repeat at 6 p.m. Saturday on Channel 9 and 14, 6 p.m. Sunday on Channel 9 and 14, 10 p.m. Monday on Channel 9 and 6 p.m. Thursday, April 19th, on Channel 9.

For more coverage, visit www.roguetv.org and www.pearblossomparade.org.

Isaac Simpson, 9, showed off his gymnastic prowess during the 2006 Pear Blossom parade.