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Pear Blossom in doubt

The Pear Blossom Festival, Medford’s largest annual gathering, might become a casualty of the coronavirus.

“We all know it’s in doubt,” said Kevin Stine, Medford City Council president. “We’ve already seen the shutdown of every major sports event.”

Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday all events with more than 250 people gathering close together will be canceled statewide over the next four weeks.

The Pear Blossom Festival, which includes an annual 10-mile run and parade scheduled this year for April 11, falls just outside the four-week window, and organizers are struggling to figure out whether the event should be canceled. April 8 is the end of the four weeks, but Brown could extend the period depending on the advice of health experts.

As of Thursday, there were 21 confirmed coronavirus cases in Oregon, but that number could grow to tens of thousands by mid-May if measures weren’t taken to prevent the spread of the pandemic, state officials warned Wednesday.

Stine, whose daughter’s school movie night was canceled this Friday because of the virus, said he’s been in contact with festival organizers and has discussed the possibility of postponing the parade, though delays could create scheduling issues with other events such as Art in Bloom and the Medford Cruise.

At this point, the April 11 run and parade haven’t been canceled as organizers try to gather more information from state and local officials.

“It’s really just wait and see,” Stine said. “Nothing has to be done today.”

Stine said nine separate events are associated with the Pear Blossom Festival, but the run and parade are the biggest concerns right now.

The annual Pear Blossom Pageant at North Medford High is scheduled for March 28 and falls within the four-week period. Organizers are looking for ways to keep the number of people attending the pageant to less than 250.

The Pear Blossom board was scheduled to meet Thursday night, and the coronavirus and the governor’s order will be at the top of the list.

“We’re waiting on getting the word about what we can or can’t do,” said Greg Nichols, vice president of the festival board.

He said the board is prepared to follow the lead of state and local health officials as well as the city of Medford, which earlier issued a permit for the festival.

“We are waiting to hear back later on this afternoon,” Nichols said Thursday afternoon.

Nichols said he didn’t know how much has been invested into the Pear Blossom planning so far.

The festival started in 1954, and up to 30,000 people line the parade route. Since 1957, a pageant has been held to select children as the king and queen of the festival.

Kristina Johnsen, communications and marketing manager for the city of Medford, said the city is closely watching the situation as the novel coronavirus COVID-19 situation rapidly evolves.

“Public safety is the highest priority,” she said. “We’re literally taking it day by day.”

The city canceled the March Mayhem Youth Baseball Tournament this weekend at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Johnsen said the city is working closely with Pear Blossom organizers as well as state and local officials to figure out if the run and parade should take place April 11.

“It is the biggest event for Medford,” she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Thousands of people checked out the vendor booths Saturday in The Commons and park blocks, the new home for the Pear Blossom Street Fair. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell
file photoTens of thousands of people attend the annual Pear Blossom Festival.