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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spectators crowd downtown Spokane for 79th annual Armed Forces Torchlight Parade

Temperatures hovered in the 60s as parade floats and marching bands cruised through downtown Spokane on Saturday evening.

The rain cleared hours before the 79th annual Armed Forces Torchlight Parade began, giving spectators ample time to claim viewing spots and toss footballs in the cordoned-off streets.

“I used to march in this parade 45 years ago when I went to Deer Park High School,” said Dale Keeney, a music store owner who watched the parade with his daughter and two young grandchildren. “And the reason I went into music is because my band teacher in high school was the greatest in the world.”

Keeney, who lives in Moscow, Idaho, said he attends the parade whenever he gets the chance, and always chooses a spot in front of the Chase Bank tower on West Main Avenue. The building covers the sidewalk and offers shelter from the rain, although that wasn’t needed this year.

The parade, which takes place on National Armed Forces Day, is the centerpiece of Spokane’s annual Lilac Festival. Cannon blasts signaled the start of the event at 7:45 p.m.

Marching bands from local high schools rallied spectators with inventive pop covers, and the Lilac Princesses smiled and waved in their purple gowns. In a show of appreciation, many spectators stood from their camping chairs and took off their hats whenever a group of veterans or service members passed by.

Restaurants along the parade route were crowded and a few musicians played for tips near River Park Square. Crowds were orderly and police officers kept watch on street corners.

Andrea Stanley said she’s lived in Spokane all her life and had never attended the parade. She went this year to entertain her 9-month-old daughter, Theresa, who grinned in her stroller as a team of flag-twirlers strolled by on West Riverside Avenue.

“She seems to be enjoying it,” Stanley said.

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