The Pear Blossom Parade: A History

JFK as the grand marshal of the Pear Blossom Parade in 1960 during his presidential campaign.  Photo credits to Shirrel Doty.

Shirrel Doty

JFK as the grand marshal of the Pear Blossom Parade in 1960 during his presidential campaign. Photo credits to Shirrel Doty.

Kleya Dhenin, Reporter

As time goes by, the reasons behind events get forgotten. This is what happened with the Ice Bucket Challenge and “I Love Boobies” wristbands. The world is becoming increasingly uninformed about history and even the reasons behinds these fads. On a smaller scale, this is what has happened with the Pear Blossom Festival. Many students at Ashland High School participate in various aspects of the Pear Blossom, but no one knows what it’s about and the history behind the festival.

The History

The Pear Blossom Festival began in 1954. Representatives from the Fruit Grower’s League, Chamber of Commerce, Merchants Association, American Legion and the Medford school district came together to initiate an event during the blossom season. In the first Pear Blossom Parade, a 5-year-old, “Miss Blossom” was chosen to reign over the ten, student pulled, wagons.

By 1956 the parade included over 100 floats and the festival had expanded to include a tour of the valley’s blooming pear orchards. SInce 1957, there has been a Pear Blossom King and Queen chosen to preside over the attraction. The first motorized float was allowed in the parade 10 years after the beginning of the festival, in 1964.

A parade grand marshal has been chosen each year to lead to the parade from Central Avenue to East Main. Among these have been an Olympic gold medalist, a governor, and a president. In 1957, Oregon Governor and former Senator Robert D. Holmes was chosen to be the grand marshal. Three years later, John F. Kennedy took his place as a part of his presidential campaign. Then, in 1977, Frank Shorter a 1972 Olympic gold medalist, led the 650 participants in the first annual mini-marathon.

The Festival

While the festival used to be only a parade, it has expanded to include a baby contest, Junior Royalty Pageant, Senior Royalty Pageant, the Pear Blossom Run, a street fair and a stamp show. Each year, the festival is given a theme. This year’s theme is “Rooted in the Rogue Valley” and will take place on April 10 and 11.

The Parade

The 62 Annual Pear Blossom Parade is the largest it has ever been with 150 floats and over 5,000 participants. The parade has gone from 20 kids pulling wagons, to 150 motorized floats and 30,000 interested civilians lining the parade route. The parade will begin at 11 AM on April 11.

The Run

The Pear Blossom committee offers two competitive runs; a 5K and 10 Mile, as well as 1 and 2 mile fun runs. Additionally, there will be a wheelchair race. They also offer running scholarships for high school seniors, Southern Oregon families and kids.

The run began in 1977 and was founded by Zellah and Jerry Swartsley. The race has grown from around 650 runners to almost 6,000. The idea was born from a marathon ran by the founders in Salt Lake City, Utah. The running begins at 7:00 AM with the course closing at 11:15 AM.

The Pageant

The Pear Blossom Festival holds two pageants: a Junior Royalty Pageant and a Senior Scholarship Pageant. The Junior Royalty Pageant is comprised of 5-year-olds across the valley. The Senior Pageant is open to high school students to eventually elect a Pear Blossom Queen and Court. Ashland High School’s Caitlin Campbell is a member of the 2015 Pear Blossom Court. The Pear Blossom Committee also offers a baby contest through the Soroptimist Foundation. All of the pageants have already happened.

Street Fair

The Pear Blossom Festival also includes an annual street fair in Downtown Medford. The location has been moved for the 2015 Festival to The Commons Park Blocks. They are still looking for vendors, but if previous years are any indicator, the selection will be vast and interesting. There is something for everyone to enjoy from food to arts and crafts. The street fair takes place on April 10 from 3-10 PM and 11 from 7 AM to 5 PM respectively.


The Pear Blossom Festival is the largest in Southern Oregon and takes place right in the Rogue Valley. Go check out the floats, and vendors and see the runners on April 10 and 11 in Medford.