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Rah, Rah, Lilac Parade! Spring Is Busting Out All Over As Thousands Of Celebrants Whoop It Up

The saying goes, “Be true to your school.”

Randy Spencer tried. He had come all the way to the Lilac Parade from Ritzville to watch his daughter march. He was once in the parade as a Ritzville kid, too.

But there was something about the tight-marching, blue-suited Coeur d’Alene High School band that made him jump the fence. Or maybe it was the Coeur d’Alene Express - the steaming, chiming choochoo that was all glitter and glowing, spoked wheels.

“The Coeur d’Alene one was awfully nice,” Spencer said. His son Branden was getting a better view - by dancing atop a fireplug.

School bands, soldiers and building-sized inflatable cartoon characters were the staples of Spokane’s Lilac Parade on Saturday. And as thousands crowded downtown streets, the public opinion poll for the best float was in full swing.

Clayton Jensen sank down in his lawn chair, took a swig of something icy and pink and thought about it. “The one with the helicopter that went up and down,” he said. “That was coooool!”

That would have been the one labelled “Rescuers” from Freeman.

It featured a giant, motorized snapping ‘gator Spielberg would be Jurassically envious of.

The attraction that got the biggest cheer? That was probably the truckload of ex-prisoners of war. When they slowed, the crowd let loose a whoop louder than a battery of rocketfire. The men standing in back - white hair beneath purple caps - beamed and waved. Other big military hits were the Air Force plane - a giant go-cart piloted by joystick. And then there was the guy that broke rank from a marching file of uniformed soldiers. He was completely covered in fluttering green and brown camouflage.

A man on the sidewalk nudged his buddy. “Swamp Thing,” he said, grinning through his beard.

If Swamp Thing got thirsty, he could buy some soda from Ben Beason.

Beason kept walking up and down the sidewalk, yelling above the sound of barking dogs and blaring tubas.

“Watered-down overpriced Cokes!” the teen screamed.

“What’d he say?” everyone murmured.

Well, it worked anyway. Beason was almost sold out. School bands must work up thirst in onlookers, too.

But Alexander Mickschl prefered heavy metal. The real stuff. He wore layers of silver armor, buffed-up bright.

“It takes about 20 minutes to get all suited up,” said Mickschl, at the parade to plug the Northwest Renaissance Festival. “Assuming I don’t have a squire to help me.”

Even before the parade, the folks getting ready provided a spectacle all their own. Thousands lined the streets and gawked at the pre-parade show.

Music from the ‘50s blared from a sock-hop. A camouflaged tank sat ready. Balloons bobbed. And that sound was everywhere.

Like a cross between a cow and a hacked-off goose, those long, plastic horns that every kid was buying and every vendor was honking.

“If I blow ‘em, they sell really good,” reasoned Kim Moses. “Otherwise, kids don’t know how loud, fun and obnoxious they can be.”

They knew. Oh, how they knew.

Amidst the mooing, white-suited combatants demonstrated fencing in the street - slicing at one another with soft sabres.

At one end of downtown, a balloon crew was hard at work. Droopy Dog and Andy Panda were already inflated, reclining and bobbing on a mattress of air, held there by a circle of volunteers’ hands.

And Underdog was just getting his breath of fresh helium. Robert Bare, 12, and Kammy Major, 14, held on tight with balled-up, gloved fists. It wasn’t tough yet - the dog was still a pile of folds on the ground. But as the inflating machine fired up, Underdog’s wrinkled cape unfurled and his belly started to grow round.

“It’s tough to control him when a big wind comes,” Bare said as he leaned back, bracing for the load, feet planted firm.

If anyone was getting bored, well, they didn’t show it. But just in case, the Jamborade started up. That’s the parade-before-the-parade. A man belted out Neil Diamond’s “America.” Drill teams performed in the street.

Georgia Welton’s baby wasn’t quite sure what to do.

“This is our little girl, 7 months old,” Welton said, introducing her pride and joy - a llama named Dynna Mite. The fluffy critter stopped, watched the squirming kids through her big, soft eyes, and wriggled her black nose side-to-side.

“This is her first time out in public.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

MEMO: Changed in Spokane Edition

Changed in Spokane Edition