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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Lilac Festival looking for commercial space for float construction, volunteers to help build

Oct. 17, 2021 Updated Sun., Oct. 17, 2021 at 8:52 p.m.

A float cruises by crowds in the Spokane Junior Lilac Parade in May 2019.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
A float cruises by crowds in the Spokane Junior Lilac Parade in May 2019. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

Next spring’s Lilac Festival could see fewer floats without additional funding or a new commercial space to build them, the festival association said Friday.

The regional nonprofit has put out a call for volunteers and donations to its float program.

The Spokane Lilac Festival Association said it is seeking funding or an in-kind donation for a commercial space about 4,000 square feet in size so volunteers could continue building floats seen in parades in locations from Canada to Portland, said Alan Hart, 2022 Spokane Lilac Festival President.

Lack of funding for the float program could mean they “would no longer be part of our Spokane Lilac Festival Armed Forces Day Torchlight Parade or represent our city at neighboring festivals,” the association said in a news release Friday. The 84th Lilac Festival is scheduled for May 16-21, 2022 after the 2020 and 2021 ceremonies were canceled because of COVID-19.

“Anything we can use we’d be happy with,” Hart said.

The nonprofit organization has for more than 20 years used a facility from one of its sponsors at a facility on Division Street, Hart said. Now, new owners bought the space and it would be too expensive to stay there, he said. With the lease coming to an end, the festival was left with few options because of cost.

The Fairmount Memorial Association then donated temporary space at the Pine Cemetery for the organization’s materials, Hart said.

“They’ve been saving us, really,” he said. “I’m not sure where we would be.”

Hart said the organization hoped to settle into a more permanent, and ideally larger, spot.

“There’s 20 years of stuff we have,” he said. “There’s a lot of history sitting in the place.”

Though the festival considered leasing its own space, Hart said, finding the right-sized space in a spot near downtown for transportation convenience was simply too expensive.

The festival could also use more volunteers to work on the floats that make the journeys with the regional Lilac Festival every year. A crew of five to 10 people work on them at any given time, usually on Thursdays and Saturdays, Hart said.

The organization welcomes volunteers with any skillset and level of experience, Hart said. Those with mechanical, artistic, woodworking or welding skills were especially encouraged, according the news release.

The first Lilac Festival began in 1938 as a tribute to the military in the form of a flyover show, Hart said. Over time, as downtown Spokane grew and became more vibrant, the festival evolved and incorporated more elements – eventually floats, the marching band and community artisan competitions came to become staples. In a nonpandemic year the festivals draws around 100,000 attendees, Hart said.

For the 2022 festival, the Lilac Legacy Art Show & Competition, Associated Garden Clubs Lilac Luncheon and Past Presidents Reunion are scheduled during the week. On May 20 the President’s Gala and Queen’s Luncheon will take place. On May 21 the parade will travel through downtown, including marching band members, a car show and a royalty reception.

Until then, festival enthusiasts can attend the first ever Spokane Downtown Holiday Parade at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 20, ending at River Park Square Mall. The parade, sponsored by the Lilac Festival Association, will include an appearance from Santa Claus at 5 p.m. and fireworks at 6 p.m.

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