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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lilac group names leader

Russ Brown, an active member with the Spokane Lilac Festival Association for about 10 years, was named 2005-06 president on Tuesday.

The longtime Medical Lake educator already made his first executive decision. And it was an effortless one, at that. Brown picked the theme for his one term to be “Kids are Key.”

“They’re the key to our success. They’re the key to our futures … and whatever it is they want to be,” Brown said.

Brown worked in Medical Lake for 34 years. He taught business and economics for nine years before being promoted to assistant principal. For 17 years, he the high school’s principal before retiring in 1995. Brown became interested in the Lilac Festival around that same time. It started when he had to organize a parade in Priest Lake, Idaho, for another organization.

He said he had no idea how to do it, so he turned to John Cocks, who was head of the Lilac Parade at the time. Brown soon began attending meetings. It wasn’t long before the natural leader moved up the association’s ranks. He replaced president Catherine Tunstall.

Brown lives in Medical Lake with his wife, Leanne. Their children, Scott Brown and Kim Headrick, also are principals. Brown also is active in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, serving as area director for 42 high schools and 44 middle schools.

Brown said one of the goals during his term will be to generate new members to the 67-year-old association. During its heyday, people put themselves on a wait list in hopes of becoming a member of the Lilac Festival, giving them the honor of becoming a “purple coater” and marching in parades.

During the 2005-06 year, the association will participate in the Lilac and Junior Lilac parades and 16 others around the region. However, the number could go down because of the rising price of gas. Brown said the association needs to raise $250,000 in order to meet its budget.

Brown said he’s feeling optimistic about the resurgence of the association as 10 new members joined over the past year. Three of the 10 vice presidents also are new.

“We’re excited as newborn kids,” Brown said.

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