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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Royal scholarship fund loses sponsor

Northern Quest Casino, past sponsor of the Spokane Lilac Festival royal scholarship funds, has decided not to sponsor the 2007 court.

Dan Fitzgerald, casino community relations manager, said the Kalispel Tribe has instead decided to “spread the money as far out as we can.”

Northern Quest still plans to pay the commercial entry free into the Torchlight Parade, as well as help sponsor the event’s golf tournament. However, unlike last year, the coronation will not be held at the casino. It’s been moved to the Spokane Masonic Center.

“I get ulcers over this,” Lilac Festival president Sandy Brown said about the scholarship fund. “I don’t know what the circumstances are.”

Brown said several proposals are on the table regarding filling the gap left by Northern Quest.

Fitzgerald, who accepted the job in June, said Northern Quest is involved in dozens of charities where hundreds of people are helped. To name a few, there’s Big Brothers Big Sisters, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Indian Community Center. Northern Quest also is looking into getting involved in Toys for Tots, Coats for Kids and other charities that can help a lot of people. Its focus is the elderly and young kids. Fitzgerald said Northern Quest also sponsored or participated in 41 golf tournaments last year.

The Lilac sponsorship is $1,250 to each court member or $8,750 total. It helps seven high school seniors.

“The money wasn’t given because, it’s not like we don’t like them,” said Fitzgerald, best known as Gonzaga University’s longtime men’s basketball coach until 1997. “It’s not like we said, ‘OK, see ya.’ The competition for the charity dollar is staggering. This is an awkward charity.”

Brown said the Lilac Festival, a nonprofit organization, has an annual budget of roughly $200,000. Getting sponsors becomes more challenging each year, Brown said. For the first time, a consultant has been brought in to help keep the longtime Spokane tradition afloat.

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