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Pear Blossom back in full bloom

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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The Pear Blossom Festival committee was able to pull off an event in 2021, although COVID-19 pandemic restrictions limited crowd sizes in the park.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneParade goers ride in the back of a truck as they pass the Pear Blossom Queen and court heading down Central Ave in downtown Medford during the 2021 parade.
After a couple of years of being ‘upside-down,’ festival events are returning to normal

After two years of virtual runs and an unusual approach to parades, this year’s Pear Blossom Festival will be much closer to 2019’s spring spectacle.

The 69th annual Rogue Valley Pear Blossom Festival will boast a full lineup of events the weekend of April 9 for the first time since the word “coronavirus” entered the national lexicon.

This year’s Pear Blossom Run, which is organized the Rogue Valley YMCA, will be a real, in-person running event April 9.

Pear Blossom Festival president Darcey Mann-Self said that in contrast to last year’s “upside-down” parade — in which socially distanced marchers stood in place and threw candy at attendees driving through the closed streets — this year’s parade will have roughly 150 entries and 5,000 participants marching in the proper direction.

Mann-Self said that although its all-volunteer board was able to pull off a festival last year, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions limited crowd sizes in the park, and forced them to consider ways to limit contact for a parade that typically draws about 20,000 spectators.

“We did all the events, but we did them all about a third,” Mann-Self said.

She looked back fondly at last year’s off-the-wall parade idea, but those efforts rethinking and scaling back the festival ended up being a lot more work for the festival’s nine-person team of volunteer board members, who organize everything but the run.

“We also found out that it’s just as hard to cancel everything as it is to set everything up,” Mann-Self said, referring to the 2020 festival.

This year’s event is far from just more of the same festival as 2019, however. Last year, the festival started teaming up with Southern Oregon Cornhole. The second annual cornhole tournament runs April 9.

“We’re building that up bigger and better,” Mann-Self said.

Also this year, the festival is working with the Southern Oregon Geocaching Club for a scavenger hunt in downtown Medford the weekend of the parade.

Mann-Self, who has been involved with the festival for 36 years, said she loves that the festival is a source of so many memories for locals.

“This is a tradition for our community,” Mann-Self said. “It’s really important for me to keep it going.”

For Eli Matthews, president and CEO of the Chamber of Medford & Jackson County, the fully reopened Pear Blossom Festival is part of a new wave of events coming to Medford and the Rogue Valley now that pandemic restrictions are lifting.

“We’re thrilled that these events are opening back up,” Matthews said.

He said that the 2022 Pear Blossom Festival’s theme of “Grow Your Community” is especially fitting this year considering its impacts on the local economy.

He said each event — whether it’s the Pear Blossom Festival or a sports competition at Lithia & Driveway Fields — draws new visitors to Southern Oregon who’ll dine at restaurants, shop at local stores and stay in area hotels.

“The more activities that we have and options for people to do, it does stimulate the local economy and showcases all we have to offer,” Matthews said.

Matthews highlighted dozens of events on the horizon on TravelMedford.org’s online events calendar, such as the Gem and Mineral Show the weekend of March 19, and the Medford Summer Classic Pickleball Tournament June 2.

Matthews, whose agency includes Travel Medford as a subsidiary, said people are hungry for in-person events.

“I think people are eager and ready,” Matthews said. “There’s nothing better than face-to-face activities.”

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.

Pear Blossom Festival events

For complete listings and event details see pearblossomparade.org or Facebook.com/medfordpearblossomfestival.

March 26

10 a.m. - Junior Royalty coronation, Cascade Christian High School, 855 Chevy Way, Medford

7 p.m. - Senior Scholarship Competition, Cascade Christian High School

April 1

9 a.m. - Youth Drive, Pitch, Putt golf tournament at Eagle Point Golf Course, 100 Eagle Point Drive, Eagle Point

April 2

9 a.m. - Two-day, 36-hole golf tournament begins at Centennial Golf Club, 1900 N. Phoenix Road, Medford

April 8

Noon-10 p.m. - Street Fair at Pear Blossom Park, 204 N. Bartlett St., Medford

3 p.m. - Pear a Fare, main tent at Fifth Street and Central Avenue, Medford

5 p.m. - Smudge Pot Stroll, restaurants in downtown Medford

April 9

7 a.m. - Pear Blossom 5K run starts at Eighth Street and Oakdale Avenue (10-mile race begins at 8:20 a.m.)

7 a.m.-6 p.m. - Street Fair continues at Pear Blossom Park

10 a.m. - Pear a Fare, main tent at Fifth Street and Central Avenue, Medford

11 a.m. - Pear Blossom Parade, downtown Medford

2 p.m. - Cornhole Tournament, 1 W. Main St., Medford

April 16

8 a.m. - Pedals ‘N Pears bike events