Thousands welcome return of Lilac parade to downtown Spokane

<p><p>No purple blooms. No sunny weather. No problem.</p></p><p><p>Thousands braved the chilly November temperatures and congregated Saturday in downtown Spokane for the holiday-themed Spokane Lilac Festival Holiday Parade.</p></p><p><p>The annual parade, typically held in May, was canceled last year and this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so organizers put on a revised 45-minute procession late Saturday afternoon.</p></p><p><p>“It’s the first chance we’ve been able to invite everybody back downtown and open things up and kind of just get a kick-start to the Christmas season, so everybody can feel kind of somewhat normal again,” Spokane Lilac Festival President Dan VerHeul said.</p></p><p><!–[photoset id=11589]–></p><p><p>VerHeul, sporting a purple suit jacket and hat for lilacs, rode in the parade with his wife in a red 1966 Pontiac Bonneville. He shouted happy holidays to the crowd that lined the streets.</p></p><p><p>The parade featured military members, Spokane police and fire vehicles, various floats and politicians, including Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Some floats and vehicles were decked out in holiday decorations.</p></p><p><p>The high school bands seemed to be a huge hit, as several attendees called the musicians their favorite part of the parade.</p></p><p><p>“I personally liked all the bands that played,” 13-year-old Danlyn Ruppert said. “It was really fun.”</p></p><p><p>Her sister, 10-year-old Vanessa Ruppert, said she enjoyed watching the princesses the most.</p></p><p><p>“I really liked the music too, except the drums kind of made me jump a little bit, but it was really fun to watch,” Vanessa Ruppert said.</p></p><p><p>Rachel Harris, who watched with her husband and their daughter, came to support the Deer Park High School band.</p></p><p><p>She said one of her sons plays the drums, while her oldest son, a former band drummer who graduated, also helped out Saturday.</p></p><p><p>She said she was pleasantly surprised to see more floats and high school bands than she expected. It was a bit cold, however, Harris admitted.</p></p><p><p>“It’s a little easier to come out in the spring when it’s a little warmer,” Harris said.</p></p><p><p>Inland Northwest Honor Flight Director Tony Lamanna served as the parade’s grand marshal. He cruised downtown in a green 1942 Jeep.</p></p><p><p>“It’s just wonderful to see the reaction that our veterans get,” said Lamanna, noting some people salute and others clap for the servicemen and women.</p></p><p><p>Lamanna founded Inland Northwest Honor Flight, which takes war veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials. The procession included a large group of participants, each holding a photo of a veteran who died in the line of duty.</p></p><p><p>For Menesia Spade, it was a picture of her brother, Army Sgt. James Craig, of Spokane. He was 26 when he died.</p></p><p><p>Spade said Craig served three tours in Iraq as an infantryman. He died one day before his six-month wedding anniversary, said Spade, who marched in honor of fallen veterans “so that their sacrifice isn’t forgotten.”</p></p><p><p>Fireworks at Kendall Yards lit up the night sky to conclude the festivities.</p></p>