Since 1938, spring in Spokane means warmer temperatures, greener trees and lilacs blooming, not only on the bushes that flourish in the area for a few weeks in May but on buttons, floats and just about any storefront downtown.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Spokane Lilac Festival, and 17 young women are vying for a chance to represent Spokane in the annual Royalty Scholarship program.
The 17 were announced last month. Each school in Spokane County is invited to select a senior girl, and the Lilac Festival chose 17 of them to move forward.
Joining the Lilac Court is a considerable commitment – not just appearing in the parade and various events during the festival. Members go through leadership, poise, self-defense and speech training and spend much of their time volunteering on behalf of the Lilac Festival. Already this year, the 17 candidates have volunteered for the House of Charity, Habitat for Humanity and Blessings Under the Bridge. All of this on top of their schoolwork, college applications and other time commitments they all have as seniors in high school.
This year’s group of candidates are listed alphabetically by school:
Evarosa Perry, Cheney; Ricky Behl, Central Valley; Nicole Richardson, East Valley; Hayden Jeremiah, Ferris; Marley Pratt, Freeman; Natalie Schwartzenberger, Gonzaga Prep; Kennedy Magner, Lewis and Clark; Grace Kannberg, Mead; Hannah Petek, Medical Lake; Sophie Madill, Mt. Spokane; Halle Nelson, North Central; Courtney Cossette, Northwest Christian School; Maggie Ruffcorn, the Oaks Classical Christian Academy; Samantha Wynne, Rogers; Arianna Torno, Shadle Park; Christine Stephens, University; and Cierra Black, West Valley.
This weekend, the candidates will participate in a series of interviews, and seven of them will be selected to move on to the coronation ceremony on March 4.
Nancy Cole, this year’s president of the Lilac Festival, said the mission of the festival is “honoring our military, empowering our youth and showcasing our community.”
“There’s a lot going on,” she said of this year’s festival.
This year the theme is “Swing into Spokane” to showcase Spokane, especially with the reconstruction of Riverfront Park.
Cole’s family has a long history of celebrating Spokane. Her father was King Cole, president of Expo ’74. That same summer, she was a Lilac princess.
The festival is working to update the float for the parade, with a throwback design to honor extraordinary events that have taken place in the Lilac City over the years.
“It’s just going to be spectacular,” she said.
This year, the festival is also expanding on “empowering our youth,” by going beyond the seven young ladies of the court. Cole has been visiting leadership classes in the high schools to teach them about event planning. The program will culminate May 15 at Ferris High School with a talent show. Cole said the festival will announce audition dates soon.
The DreamShip will be at Riverfront Park during the festival – hot air balloons to benefit children of fallen soldiers.
“All the proceeds go to the children,” Cole said.
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