A conversation with Lilac Festival President Nancy Cole

The Buzz Bin

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Spokane's Lilac Festival. This year's city-pride celebration features a talent show, beer garden, hot air balloon rides, massive parade and Sunday bike ride to cap it off. We talked with this year's volunteer president, Nancy Cole, to get the lowdown. She says one float in this year's parade is a near replica of the Expo '74 float she rode as a princess on the royal court.

Inlander: What's new to this year's festival?

Cole: For the first time we have a large area for kids in Riverfront Park. It's been worked on for a few years, and one of my goals was to get kids and parents back into the park. The carousel is open, and there will be a jumping castle by the clock tower. And over by the Lilac Bowl, there will be a giant hot air balloon, and for a fee you can go up and down in it.

IN: That balloon has a special story behind it, right?

Cole: Right. Kids of fallen soldiers have designed their dreams, and those pictures are transferred to ripstop material and are used to make the balloon. All donations for balloon rides go toward [scholarships for] children of fallen soldiers ... to ensure that every child of a fallen soldier will have a college education. It's pretty incredible really.

IN: What's the one event that people shouldn't miss?

Cole: That's a hard question, but I would say don't miss the parade. It's going to be terrific weather, terrific floats. There are 200 entries this year, and the majority are marching bands. You get that hometown feeling in your belly.

IN: What time should people get downtown to nab their spot on the parade route?

Cole: Before I was involved in Lilac, I used to do it the night before, and use rope. Then I got there at 8 or 9 in the morning to hold our spot. But lately I've seen people getting there at 6 or 7 in the morning. It will get filled up because we're supposed to have nice weather this year. You can find the parade route on our website, spokanelilacfestival.org.

IN: How much does it take to put on an event like this?

Cole: $150,000 is what it takes each year, and we rely completely on donations and volunteers. Tens of thousands of volunteer hours are put in. Anyone can donate or volunteer through the website. It takes a village to pull these things off, a lot of work. ♦

Visit spokanelilacfestival.org for a full schedule.

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.