She didn’t win any prizes, but Jane Keevy might have broken the record.
The 51-year-old Spokane woman showed up at 7:45 a.m. to choose her frontrow seat on Sprague Avenue for the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade on Saturday night.
Keevy, who’s only missed two parades since she was 5, started arriving at 1 p.m., then at noon, then at 11 a.m. Last year, she showed up at 10 a.m.
This year, “My husband said, ‘why don’t I just take you down when I go to work?”’ Keevy said with a laugh. “I was the very first one here.”
“She’s gotta break the record,” her husband, Garry Keevy, chimed in from one of the five seats his wife saved for the Keevy clan.
During the day, Jane Keevy was gradually joined by others, until the crowd swelled to more than 100,000, by unofficial estimates.
In key viewing spots, such as at First and Washington, spectators lined the streets four to five deep. They hauled out their lawn chairs, white plastic chairs and even a couch or two.
“It’s the biggest single crowd I’ve seen and I’ve been here 15 years,” said Bill McKinney, a member of the Lilac Association.
Radio stations, llamas and the Riverfront Park train entertained the crowd during the pre-parade Jamborade, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“I got a dollar from my mom and I bought this stuff,” yelled Kelsey Underwood, 5, as she held up an ornament on a string and a bag of pink and blue cotton candy.
As the 7:45 p.m. parade time neared, float riders donned costumes, band members tugged at the collars of their polyester uniforms and organizers made last-minute arrangements.
“Please let it not be windy,” prayed Bob Kemp as his crews inflated the giant 40-foot Underdog and Andy Panda balloons furnished by his Delaware company, Kemp Balloons.
Clearing the intersections and 14-foot skywalks would be the challenge, Kemp said. Twenty-two handlers were assigned to maneuver each balloon around the corners, under the traffic lights and through the narrow space between the street and the skywalks.
When the giant cartoon dog finally floated through the streets for the first time in Lilac Parade history, the screaming and whooping crowd announced its arrival before it turned the corner.
People hung from their windows at the Ridpath Hotel and children ran along the sidelines, spraying Silly String into the street.
High school bands thundered through the streets, snare drums ripping out a beat as band members snapped instruments into place in perfect unison.
“It’s kind of a rush to have people cheer for you,” said 16-year-old alto saxophone player Elisabeth Berman, a junior at Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High School.
“It’s a time that the Spokane community can really see the band shine,” she said.
Among the floats were Seattle’s “Undersea Fantasy,” complete with sparkling dolphins, fish speared by tridents and King Neptune. The white horses on Wenatchee’s float pulled a carriage through apple trees.
On Pullman’s “At the Fair,” a mini-Ferris wheel stood in the middle of a tiny roller coaster track with three cars. In keeping with its fair theme, signs on the back of the float directed people to the restrooms, sheep barn and arts and crafts tent.
“We have some big parades in Vancouver, but nothing like this,” said Sonya Riley, a fair princess from Penticton, British Columbia. “The spirit here is absolutely phenomenal.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Lilac Parade winners High school bands Grand Sweepstakes: Sumner High. AAA Division: Central Valley High School, first; Lewis and Clark High School, second; Mead High, third. AA Division: Cheney High School, first; Eastmont High School, second; West Valley (Yakima) High School, third. A Division: Riverside High School, first; Jenkins High School, second; Freeman High School, third. B Division: Liberty High School, first; Oroville High School, second; Reardan/ Edwall High School, third. Best Auxiliary: Ferris High School, first; Lewis and Clark High School, second; University High School, third; Post Falls High School, tied for third. Float award winners Community Sweepstakes: Freeman Grand Marshal’s Award: Coeur d’Alene. Community A: Sunnyside, first; Pullman, second; Moses Lake, third. Community B: Othello, first; Grandview, second; Ephrata, third. President’s Award: Cashmere Community C: Omak, first; Colville, second; Orofino, third. Community D: Granger, first; Chewelah, second; Deer Park, third. Queen’s Award: Reardan/Edwall Community E: Odessa, first; Ritzville, second; Warden, third. Community F: Wilbur/Creston, first; Rosalia/Thornton/Maldon, second; Lind, third. Non-Commercial Sweepstakes: Tieton Lioness Club. Non-Commercial: Portland, first; Washington Autumn Leaf (Leavenworth), second; Naches, third. Commercial Sweepstakes: Washington Apple Blossom. Commercial: Tacoma Daffodil, first. Armed Forces Sweepstakes: 141st Refueling Wing Float. Armed Forces: Fairchild, first. Torchlight Award Sweepstakes: Sunnyside, first; honorable mention, Granger; honorable mention, Chewelah.