For decades thousands of Southern Oregonians have celebrated the arrival of spring at the annual Pear Blossom Festival in Medford, Oregon.

The festival began in 1954 with a 10-float children’s parade featuring a 5-year-old Miss Blossom.

The 2014 61st Pear Blossom Parade featured 150 entries and 4,000 participants. Organizers anticipated 25,000 to 30,000 spectators would line the parade route. Parade marshals have included Sen. John F. Kennedy in 1960 and runner Frank Shorter in 1977. Shorter, marathon gold medal winner at the 1972 Summer Olympics, led the festival’s first annual mini-marathon.

Other activities included a baby contest, junior and senior royal pageants, 5-K and 10-mile runs, a street fair and a stamp show.

A street fair was held Friday and Saturday and runs on Saturday. The 2014 fair was located in the then-new Commons Park Blocks in the center of Medford’s downtown business district.

The festival is the most important fund-raising event for the Heart of Medford Association, organized to increase participation and cooperation of businesses in the downtown area and to bring foot traffic back to the district.

Source: "The 61st Annual Pear Blossom Festival ." Pear Blossom Festival Assoc. 2014. Web. March 20, 2014.

This year's Pear Blossom Festival features a variety of events Friday and Saturday, April 7-8, in Medford. See pearblossomparade.org for a full listing of events, prices, race registration, special event tickets, locations and information.

— As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.