To match this year’s Medford Pear Blossom theme of “Our Valley – Our Heritage,” the grand marshal will be the Southern Oregon Historical Society. Founded just a few years apart more than 60 years ago, both the parade and the society are dedicated to preserving and telling the story of the valley’s common heritage.
The Pear Blossom Festival began in 1954 as a parade for youngsters 12 and under. They built floats on their wagons that could not be pulled by any animal larger than a Saint Bernard dog. During the 1960 election year, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy was the grand marshal. Oregon Gov. Robert Holmes came in 1957 and Olympian Frank Shorter in 1977.
Several movie and TV stars have been grand marshals, perhaps the best known was Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek, who led the parade in 1967.
Other grand marshals have included Winnie the Pooh, Roger Rabbit, Goofy and Medford’s own Huggy Bear.
The parade has grown from 30 children in the first parade to as many as 5,000 people and more than 100 floats in recent years.
Source: Unattributed manuscript in the Medford Pear Blossom Festival Vertical File at the Southern Oregon Historical Society Research Library in Medford, Ore. Viewed in 2017.