SPOKANE — Like last year when the coronavirus made waves through Washington, two longtime community events in Spokane — the St. Patrick’s Day parade and the Spokane Lilac Festival — won’t happen in the coming months due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick announced the decision to cancel on Facebook last week. Likewise, Lilac Festival organizers announced Monday that the pandemic would not allow them to host the event’s traditional activities this coming May, including the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade.
Though plans for a May festival are shelved, Lilac Festival President Dan VerHeul said organizers are redirecting their efforts to work with the city and others in hopes of hosting a different, albeit smaller, parade later this year to kick off the city’s winter holiday festivities.
VerHeul said this “Holiday Parade,” scheduled for Nov. 20, could involve a shorter route and less entries than the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade partly due to the colder weather. He estimated the parade could have around 50 to 60 entries, down from the 200 or so that have showcased during the Armed Forces Torchlight Parade.
And while the spring parade is designed to honor veterans, VerHeul said the Holiday Parade is meant to support downtown businesses and complement the city’s winter festivities, including the annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration.
“It’s more about bringing the community back together for an event,” VerHeul said.
For the Lilac Festival, the Holiday Parade is a way to give back to the area’s businesses, as a number of them have supported the festival with donations.
Organizers similarly proposed a “miniparade” last year when the Lilac Festival was canceled for the first time since World War II, but the idea was quickly nixed at the advisement of county health officials.
While organizers were “blindsided” by the pandemic last year, VerHeul said the festival is a little more prepared this time.
“We are extremely excited and committed to continuing our Festival’s traditions, even if in a temporarily revised form,” he said in a statement. “It is our hope that the Holiday Parade will be another opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate both our city, the holiday season and, most importantly, showing that we are a strong and proud community.”
Spokane Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Jones said the planning committee behind the Holiday Parade met for the first time last week. Involved entities also include city event specialists and public safety representatives, he said.
“Something like the Lilac Festival or the idea around a holiday parade, that’s exciting to us to be a part of that creative thinking on what we can do ... to make that event successful,” Jones said.
Despite the cancellations, the coronation of a new queen of the Lilac Royal Court is still on for next month.
As part of Monday’s announcement, organizers said the festival has chosen seven high school girls out of 12 candidates for membership on the Royal Court, with judges using a six-week period of training and community service to narrow the list.
As part of the Lilac Royalty Scholarship Program, the chosen finalists will receive college scholarships funded by the festival and other entities, VerHeul said. The coronation is scheduled for March 20 with a restricted ceremony, though the event will be livestreamed.
Here are the finalists:
Carly Bale, West Valley High School
Lauren Ballantyne, Mt. Spokane High School
Maddie Ediger, Mead High School
Julia McIntyre, Gonzaga Preparatory High School
Kimberly Ngo, Rogers High School
Mindee Phipps, Freeman High School
Elena Rawlins, Lewis & Clark High School