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Pear Blossom Festival & Parade

Runners, families and food and wine enthusiasts will congregate in downtown Medford for a sunny day at the 61st annual Pear Blossom Festival. This year's theme, "Rogue Valley World's Pear," celebrates Harry &: David. Representatives from the direct marketing company will serve as this year's parade grand marshals to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

The festival's opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting is set for 5 p.m. Friday, April 11, at The Commons. Mayor Gary Wheeler, festival sponsors and the Pear Blossom Queen Shawntell Michalke and her court will speak.

Then local jazz and funk band Living on Dreams will perform until 9 p.m. at the street fair.

"Friday night is a really nice evening," says Toni McMillan-Arnspiger, head of the street fair committee. "It's cooler, the lights are all on and we have some great vendors."

This year's street fair will host about 148 food and art vendors. While most vendors are local, some come from as far as Seattle and Boise.

The fair will provide a wide variety of food options, from standard carnival fare to Mexican and Hawaiian.

In addition to the food and vendors, there will be a petting zoo, bounce houses, face-painting and more for kids.

Also on the fair site is the Pear-a-Fare, a tent with 40 vendors who will offer tastes of artisan foods, desserts, wine and beer. See www.pear-a-fare.com for a complete list of vendors.

Admission to the tent is free, but taste tickets cost $5 for six or $15 for 10 and a souvenir glass. The tickets and glass package can be purchased in advance at Medford BMW, 610 N. Central Ave., for $10.

The street fair will run from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday, April 11, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 12.

The Pear-a-Fare tent will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Runners will be on their marks at 7 a.m. Saturday for the 5-kilometer run, followed by the 1-mile Mayor's Cup at 7:50 a.m., the 10-mile run at 8:20 a.m. and the 2-mile Mayor's Cup at 8:30 a.m. The Mayor's Cup runs start at the Justice Building; all other races start at City Hall. See www.pearblossomrun.com for more details.

Darcy Mann-Self, president of the festival for 30 years, says volunteers are excited about the weather forecast for Saturday's parade.

"When it's cold or rainy, it makes for a very quick parade," Mann-Self says. "With a warm parade, people skip around and walk a little slower. It makes for a more fun parade."

This year's parade will feature nearly 150 entries, and 90 percent of them play music, says Mann-Self.

"It was very challenging to line them all up, but it's going to make for a good parade," she says.

The parade begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Lithia Honda and will make its way along Central Avenue then turns west on Main Street. Spectators should arrive early to find spots to view the parade. About 30,000 people commonly line the parade route each year.

See www.pearblossomparade.org for details.

Judy Casad, left, and Vickie Helfrich of the Rusty Relics Tractor Club ride their dice-decorated tractor in the 2013 Pear Blossom Parade.