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Royal procession: Spokane Lilac Festival Parade

Military draw biggest applause at annual Spokane celebration

The streets of downtown Spokane became part rock music festival, part rodeo grounds and all about the military during the annual Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade Saturday night.

The thousands of people who packed the sidewalks to watch the parade go by stood up to cheer and clap every time a military unit or float went by. The applause was particularly sustained when more than two hundred people walked by with the Gold Star Families group, each carrying a banner bearing the name and photo of a fallen service member.

Some people arrived hours before the start time at 7:45 p.m., placing folding chairs in prime locations before going shopping and out to eat. Others arrived just before the parade began, jockeying for a good view.

Mark Denney arrived on Riverside Avenue to stake his spot around 3 p.m. and there were already plenty of chairs lining the street. “We got lucky,” he said.

He was eager to see his first Torchlight Parade in decades, his first since moving back to Spokane.

“I haven’t been here since high school,” he said.

Denney has fond memories of the parade, which he attended as a boy.

“I love the lilacs,” he said. “I love how it brings the community together.”

Paigan Burris picked out a spot in front of the Riverfront Park fountain to watch the parade with her 13-year-old daughter, Alytheia, who was wearing a U.S. Marine Corps sweatshirt. Burris has one son serving in the Navy and another in the Marines. Burris’ grandfather was in the Air Force, so coming to the parade has been a “military tradition” for more than 20 years.

“I like that it is for the military,” she said.

Burris said she also enjoys the fact that it’s at night.

“I think it’s unique,” she said.

The parade was not only to honor those currently serving, but to recognize veterans. Military trucks, buses and classic cars carried veterans from World War II, including Pearl Harbor survivors, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Seabees, a Navy construction battalion, were there, as was the Washington National Guard and the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

There were plenty of entries for the kids as well. Rodeo riders from around the western United States waved from atop prancing horses. The Eastern Washington University mascot, Swoop, showed off dance moves to music played by the Cheney High School band. The Red Hot Mamas got the crowd going with their energetic performance to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Fingers wagging and hips sashaying, they rolled their decorated walkers down the street to cheers.

Members of this year’s Lilac Royal Court, which was selected in January, are:

• Queen Kaylee Pearson, of Ferris High School

• Princess Bekah Fields, of Valley Christian School

• Princess Elsie Story, of Mt. Spokane High School

• Princess Chelsea Evans, of Riverpoint Academy

• Princess Majestic Tschabold, of Medical Lake High School

• Princess Maddie DeGeest, of Central Valley High School

• Princess Mackenzie Claeys, of Freeman High School

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