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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘It’s nice to be back’: Thousands applaud return of Spokane Lilac Festival at downtown parade

UPDATED: Sat., May 21, 2022

The clouds parted and the rain ceased Saturday night as thousands lined the sidewalks of downtown Spokane for the first Spokane Lilac Festival parade since before the pandemic.

A holiday-themed Lilac Festival parade was held downtown in November.

“It’s nice to be back down in the community after COVID and having the parade be back,” said Shantel Schrag, whose daughter performed with the Mt. Spokane High School dance team. “So it’s kind of nice to see everybody together.”

Families and friends sat in lounge chairs, on sidewalk curbs and even on top of cars as the procession of cars, floats, bands and horses weaved through downtown.

The Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office led the way in black and white motorcycles with their red and blue sirens blaring.

A Spokane Fire Department engine and the Mt. Spokane High marching band, cheerleaders and dancers followed, much to the delight of Schrag, Lisa Homb and Samantha Burnette.

Homb came to watch her granddaughter, Olivia Cannon, dance for her Mt. Spokane dance squad. She watched her daughter, Schrag, dance in the parade for the same school 20 years ago when Schrag was a senior.

Homb called it a “fun little family tradition” and recalled going street corner to street corner to watch her daughter perform two decades ago.

Schrag said she felt nostalgic.

“Mt. Spokane’s a great school and I really love that she’s a part of that, too, so it’s kind of fun having that in common and sharing, you know, that Wildcat spirit with her,” she said.

Burnette, who sat on a blanket with her husband and 3-year-old son, said she played trombone in band as a child and loves marching bands, and her son likes fire trucks.

Festival President Alan Hart cruised down the streets in a red classic car. The festival’s Royal Court, which included six princesses from area high schools and queen Janna Huber of Mead High School, waved from a float in purple dresses.

Grand marshal and retired Col. John Groves donned his dress blue Air Force uniform and waved from a Ford Bronco in the parade.

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.

While it didn’t rain on the parade, attendees did have to bundle up as temperatures were in the low 50s when the parade kicked off at 7:45 p.m.

“It could be warmer,” Burnette said. “It’s very cold for May in Spokane.”

Homb said the weather turned out fabulous.

“When we came down, it was kind of chilly, but now the sun’s come out,” Homb said. “It’s kind of cool, kind of pretty.”

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