It is early, yet the buzz on the Plaza is already starting to zing into the crisp evening air. The Bricks are again crowded with playgoers as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival opens another season. It&

s the opening of the festival and the start of another brilliant spring in Ashland.

In additional to another brilliant theater season, spring in Ashland offers residents much to look forward to. The preview of the Ashland Independent Film Festival starts next Sunday with the Oscar night gala, a huge hit last year. It teases indie film lovers anxious for the fun-filled days of the festival in April. Fast becoming one of Ashland&

s signature events, the film festival gives us every reason to believe this year will have the same energy, enthusiasm and zest of last year, when movies were sold out early and often.

The Taste of Ashland comes in late March, offering a celebration of all things Ashland by pairing local restaurants with local galleries to combine sensory overload of flavors, visual and edible alike.

Spring means new energy in the local wineries, where tastings of the local product are a great way to spend a lazy weekend day. Rising Sun Farms&

tasting room offers wine with samplings of their famous tortas and spreads. The decks at Weisenger&

s and Paschal wineries on a sunny day offer a wonderful place to stare at the mountains and embrace the Valley.

Some still hold the belief that Ashland&

s downtown is the haven of tourists, forcing locals into the hills for the summer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Locals know about the carefully made lattes upstairs at the Bloomsbury Coffee House, just as local kids swap stickers at the Lowdown Board Shop. Locals know the best time to eat on Calle Guanajuato is before the wasps take over in the heart of summer. Locals follow the music of local bands wherever they can forge a space to play, be it Alex&

s or Mobius or points in between.

Tourists may enjoy the downtown, but we bask in it. One of the best things of living in a such a vibrant town is we still bump into friends on the street, still pull together two tables in a restaurant to join someone we didn&

t expect to see, still offer casual conversations to the store owners who have seen so many of these new seasons come and go and still know the best spots to read a book in the park, or grab a quick nap or the best times to push our child on the swing. We locals, not the tourists, know when the steelhead return to a sacred spot up Ashland Creek.

Too much American pie for the hard of heart maybe, but most of us were drawn here by the magic that seems to fall in greater abundance in Ashland. Sometimes when you live in paradise, you forget how it felt to love it the first time. But the return of the tourists like the swallows in Capistrano reminds us again that we live in a wonderful town.

A pleasant weekend to you all from the Ashland Daily Tidings.