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The Spokane Lilac Festival’s armed forces torchlight parade is back with ‘Our Town’ theme

May 20, 2022 Updated Fri., May 20, 2022 at 1:40 p.m.

After a two-year hiatus, the Lilac Festival is returning to downtown Spokane this weekend.

This time, celebrating under the theme of “Our Town,” festival organizers aim to “honor the military, empower our youth and showcase our region.”

Two years of pandemic shutdowns behind us, 2022 Lilac Festival President Alan Hart chose the theme to honor the community. Each event aims to bring the community back together.

“I’ve been looking forward to that,” Hart said. “The parade is a little bit smaller than it has been in the last few years – it’s still gonna be two-and-a-half-hours long. It’s still just gigantic.”

What to expect

Starting Saturday morning, the event kicks off with a float viewing, during which Lilac Festival-goers will have the chance to snag a sneak peak at the 2022 Our Town floats and about 20 visiting floats. Staging will begin under the freeway between Fourth Avenue at Jefferson Street at 8 a.m.

Portland Rose Festival representatives the Royal Rosarians will visit Manito Park’s rose gardens to plant a rose in honor of Hart at 10:30 a.m. After serving three assignments at Fairchild Air Force Base with the 92nd Maintenance Group, Hart retired to Spokane with his wife, Tera, a teacher at Medical Lake High School, veteran and U.S. Air Force Academy graduate. A military family, the Harts have one son in the Navy and another set to march in the Torchlight Parade with the color guard team. The Harts’ daughter, Katherine, will also be joining them in the parade.

Starting at 1 p.m., BECU, the festival’s sponsor, will have a booth at the vendor fair on Howard Street between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue. BECU will share information about Veteran Employee Resource Group (VERG) and their commitment to the Armed forces.

New this year, organizers will run a “brewfest” featuring beer tastings from 16 local breweries on Wall Street between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue between noon and 5 p.m. This event is already sold-out, but you can still join a waitlist. For information, visit spokanelilacfestival.org and search “Festival Event List.”

The Cruizin’ the Falls Car Show will begin at the Corner of Spokane Falls Boulevard and Wall Street at 10 a.m. Award winners will be announced around 4:30 p.m.

The parade will begin at 7:45 p.m.

Royalty for the day

The Lilac Festival’s 2022 Royal Court incudes princess Velerie Dancel of Medical Lake High School, princess Megan Tallman of The Oaks Classical Christian Academy, princess Taryn Frerichs of Ferris High School, princess Ryan Ham of Gonzaga Preparatory School, princess Shelby Zehm of University High School, princess Ella Hilliard of Cheney High School and festival queen Janna Huber of Mead High School. Huber is involved in Link Crew, marching band, pep band, wind ensemble, Young Life, Student Council, and co-captains the tennis team. She plans to attend either Washington State University or Eastern Washington University in the fall.

This year’s grand marshal is Col. John Marshall Groves. Now retired, Groves served in the Air Force for more than 26 years, 14 of which were spent in special operations command, flying combat missions in Iraq, Kuwait, Djibouti, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2004, Groves earned a Silver Star Medal for his actions in Fallujah, Iraq.

No stranger to Spokane, Groves served as the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape school commander at Fairchild Air Force Base from 2016-2018, during which time, the school trained more than 32,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Finally, Justice Debra Stephens will serve as 2022’s honorary grand parade marshal. A Spokane native, Stephens graduated from West Valley High School and received her law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law as a Thomas More Scholar.

Then-Gov. Christine Gregoire appointed Stephens as judge to Division Three of the Washington Court of Appeals. Stephens was later appointed as a justice to the Washington state Supreme Court, becoming the first from Division Three of the Washington Court of Appeals and the first woman from Eastern Washington to hold the position. Since then, she has served three terms as a Supreme Court justice.

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