Medford is a small city tucked in the southwest corner of Oregon, but it's had a few brushes with celebrity. Ginger Rogers bought a ranch there in 1940 to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. A few years later, in the classic noir film Double Indemnity with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, the character Mr. Jackson explained, "I'm a Medford man – Medford, Oregon. Up in Medford, we take our time making up our minds."
And that was about it for a couple of decades. Until an iconic Vulcan beamed up from California for a parade.
Well, lets back up a bit. In 1954, local Medford organizations arranged a parade to celebrate the natural splendor of springtime in the region. It was decided to have a five-year-old crowned in a pageant as Miss Blossom to lead a parade of 10 floats.
Thus, the Medford Pear Blossom Festival was born. Just two short years later, the festival had, well, blossomed to include 100 floats. The Grand Marshals were pretty darn impressive, too. In 1960, John F. Kennedy served as Grand Marshal during his presidential campaign, riding through the streets of Medford in the back of a cream-colored Lincoln Continental convertible.
Whoever was booking the Pear Blossom Festival was knocking it out of the park. In 1967, Medford welcomed an even rarer sight than JFK.
Leonard Nimoy slipped into his blue Enterprise uniform, glued on his pointy ears, and met an adoring public as the Grand Marshal of the '67 Pear Blossom Festival. Before his death, he tweeted about the memory.
Pear Blossom Festival Medford, Oregon, Spring 1967. Sweet memory. LLAP http://t.co/Hpj4iz96— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) October 27, 2012
"The only time I ever appeared in public as Spock," he noted.
It may have been a sweet memory by 2012, but in the Sixties, Nimoy was not entirely keen on the trip. "I never made that mistake again," he wrote about his lone public appearance as Spock in his memoir I Am Spock (1995).
"The problem came after, when I was taken to a nearby park. A table was set up at the bandstand so that I could sign autographs. But instead of the hundreds I'd hoped to see, there were thousands of people there. They surged forward so quickly that I was terrified someone would be crushed to death; and then they started pressing against the bandstand so hard it began to sway beneath my feet! The people with me soon realized we were in trouble. Fortunately, the local police came to the rescue and pulled me through the throng!"
NBC promised to provide more security in the future for the Star Trek star. Nimoy instead decided to never appear again in public in his "Vulcan guise."
So how did this humble regional flower festival nab such big names? It has to do with television, actually. The local NBC affiliate, KMED-TV Channel 10, was eager to promote its shows. (The station also aired ABC programming.) Thus, actors trucked up to Oregon to plug their Westerns and whatnot. Bruce Yarnell of The Outlaws appeared in 1962. Peter Graves showed up promoting Fury. Johnny Crawford (The Rifleman) turned up, too.
Over the year, Medford has welcomed everyone from Frank Cady (Green Acres) to Tony Dow (Leave It to Beaver). But nothing comes close to the bragging rights of having Spock's lone appearance on Earth in real life.
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