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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

NASA astronaut, King Cole’s children to be featured in Saturday’s Lilac Festival parade

Airmen from Fairchild Air Force Base slap hands along the parade route first Avenue during the Spokane Lilac Festival’s Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, Saturday, May 21, 2022, in downtown Spokane.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A NASA astronaut, children of Expo ’74 visionary King Cole and, of course, the royal court will grace the streets of downtown Spokane on Saturday night as thousands take in the city’s largest parade.

A Fairchild Air Force Base KC-135 Stratotanker will fly over Riverfront Park at about 7:15 p.m. before the Spokane Lilac Festival Association’s Armed Forces Torchlight Parade starts at 7:30 .

More than 150 parade units will meander through downtown. They will proceed south on Washington Street, west on First Avenue and then zigzag east and west on Sprague, Riverside and Main avenues before finishing on Spokane Falls Boulevard near Post Street.

Expect downtown street closures in the hours leading up to the parade. All streets will reopen at about 11:30 p.m.

Elisabeth Hooker, festival co-president, said the parade is an opportunity for Spokane to come together and celebrate the city.

“What the Lilac Festival wants to do every year is throw a party for Spokane where everyone in Spokane feels like they can be proud of the community that they’re a part of,” Hooker said.

The festival’s theme this year is “Dare to Dream,” in honor of the founders of Expo ’74.

The festival association’s float is a recreation of Riverfront Park, the legacy of the 1974 world’s fair, according to Hooker and a festival news release. The float features the Garbage Goat, the Spokane Pavilion and the oversized butterflies that served as wayfinding markers that guided Expo ’ 74 visitors.

“You’re going to see a lot of the iconic elements from Riverfront Park on our float this year,” Hooker said.

The royal court, comprised of a queen and six princesses from seven Spokane County high schools, will occupy the float.

The parade’s grand marshal is U.S. Army Col. Anne McClain, a NASA astronaut, according to the release. McClain graduated from Gonzaga Prep in 1997 and earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical/aeronautical engineering from West Point, as well as three master’s degrees from other colleges.

McClain most recently served as flight engineer on the International Space Station. She was lead spacewalker on two spacewalks.

“We’re celebrating the time the world came to Spokane with the 50th anniversary of Expo, but she will be the only person in the city who has actually looked at the world from afar,” Hooker said.

Honorary grand marshals are eight of King Cole’s children, who traveled across the country to participate in the parade, the release said.

Cole is referred to as “The Father of Expo 74,” for his role in bringing the world’s fair to Spokane and reinvigorating downtown. A King Cole Day proclamation will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Riverfront Park Rotary Fountain.

“We know that Spokane would not be the city it is today without Expo and without the efforts of King,” Hooker said.

Other festival events Saturday include: the “Cruzin’ the Falls Car Show” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Spokane Falls Boulevard between Stevens and Post streets; the Lilac City Market Place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Howard Street between Spokane Falls Boulevard and Main Avenue; and Brewfest from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Pavilion.