OUTING: Hood River Valley Blossom Festival
by: ©2007 PETER MARBACH, In the gorge, blooms spring forth with Mount Hood as a backdrop. This weekend, orchardists welcome visitors to the Fruit Loop to make a trip, or a weekend, of it.

Springtime in the Columbia Gorge means 15,000 acres of pear, apple and cherry trees covered in delicate pink and white blossoms -and a festival to celebrate them.

'You have rolling hills of blooming orchards with the mountain behind and the gorge in front,' says Genevieve Scholl-Erdmann, of the Hood River Chamber of Commerce, adding that the festival 'really showcases the natural beauty of one of the most beautiful spots in Oregon in springtime.'

The sights of the 47-mile Fruit Loop can be enjoyed from a car in about 90 minutes, or visitors can take their time, stopping along the way and checking out the 26 attractions that are part of the festival.

'It's an easy day trip, but there's definitely enough to do that you can make a weekend of it,' Scholl-Erdmann says. 'It's a taste of life in the country, and it's a true agricultural festival with a real sense of place because it authentically kicks off the beginning of a real growing season.'

Look out for old favorites, such as the Blossom Quilt Show, the Parkdale Fine Arts and Music Festival, the Hood River Antique Expo and the popular Blossom Craft Show, and two new attractions: a glass art showcase and the grand opening of the Gorge White House.

The glass art event shows work ranging from sparkling home decor items to functional, architectural glass.

The Gorge White House is the pillared childhood home of Hood River orchardist Camille Hukari. This weekend, visitors can taste regional microbrews and wine and shop for fruit, flowers, artwork and gourmet goodies.

A map and event guide can be downloaded from the Web site or picked up at Exits 62 and 64 off Interstate 84, where volunteers will be stationed. The Hood River County Visitors Center at Exit 63 also has maps and information.

- Suzie Ridgway

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (activities vary by location) SATURDAY and SUNDAY, April 21-22, Hood River County Visitors Center, 405 Portway Ave., Hood River, 1-800-366-3530 x10,, free

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