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Hillyard mixes history, fun in celebrating centennial of festival

For 100 years, historic Hillyard has celebrated with a festival.

For the centennial edition of the Hillyard Festival, organizers went all out. Car shows. Fireworks. Live entertainment. Free swimming. Vendors galore. All of it designed to draw visitors from around the Inland Northwest.

Saturday’s festivities kicked off with the Hi-Jinks Parade, which showcased some of what Hillyard has to offer. Local businesses were represented in the parade, along with community groups, public officials, politicians and veterans groups. Onlookers lined the sidewalks along Market Street. Children snatched up candy as the parade went by and small-business owners opened their doors to the flood of people.

“I love it here,” said Russ Woodworth, whose 1940 Ford pickup was displayed at the festival. “I’ve always liked this area. It’s close-knit.”

More than 160 impeccably shiny vingate cars and hot rods then drove down Market Street the opposite direction of the parade, the drivers revving their engines and burning rubber to the delight of spectators.

“It’s a great event,” said Ken Close, president of the Greater Hillyard Business Association. “Everybody loves hot rods.”

Despite the passing years, Hillyard and its residents have in some ways stayed the same. The “unique” town was built on industriousness, said J.R. Sloan, with the Greater Hillyard Business Association, and many residents there today pride themselves on being tough, hard-working people.

The community was named for James Hill, head of the Great Northern Railway, who was looking to create a West Coast connector for his railroad operations in Minnesota.

The railway hub became a thriving working-class community; many of the area’s homes were built to house railroad workers working in the local yard, east of Market Street, where steam-powered locomotives were made and repaired.

The business district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving the neighborhood the feel of an old, small town and leaving most of the buildings historically intact.

“It’s unique,” Close said. “Some say Hillyard put Spokane on the map.”

The diversity of Hillyard’s residents also adds to its uniqueness, Sloan said.

“Anybody is welcome here,” he said.

It was annexed into Spokane in 1924, but many residents still express civic pride and an air of independence. At one point Saturday, a woman drove down Market Street and yelled out her car window, “Hillyard rocks!”

David Marshall, of Mead, who was spending his day off checking out the festival, said he enjoys the neighborhood’s feel.

“People here are real,” he said.

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