Spokane Lilac Festival

To truly experience what Spokane is all about, look no further than the Spokane Lilac Festival. The annual week of festivities in May combines the city’s famous lilacs with community events to paint the town purple, culminating in a huge torchlight parade downtown.

The Basics

With a mission of “honoring our military, empowering our youth, and showcasing our region,” the Lilac Festival has been a tradition since 1938. A parade crowd of over 150,000 spectators, plus those marching, gathers in the city with a population just over 215,000, making it seem that nearly all of Spokane joins in for this beloved event. Spectators and participants also come from all over the northwest, including Idaho, Montana, and Canada.

The yearly festivities commence the second Saturday of May and culminate the third Saturday of May, when the lilacs are fully in bloom, but even before this week there are activities and events leading up to the festival.

Teams works for months in advance to create the perfect float and better their chances at winning the award for best float. Marching bands and drill teams practice for weeks to get their routine just right. Those marching in the parade spend hours perfecting their costumes. And, the much-anticipated annual theme and decorative pin are in the works within months of the festival ending each year.

Honoring Our Military

A key aspect of the festival focuses on honoring the military. This includes active, retired, and veteran personnel from all branches, and a military hero is selected as parade grand marshal. The Armed Forces Torchlight Parade coincides with Armed Forces Day and kicks off with a flyover by a military aircraft from the nearby Fairchild Air Force Base. During the parade, you’ll see all types of military units marching proud in their uniforms and flying the American flag.
 
This year during the day of the parade at Riverfront Park, you can view the DreamShip, a hot air balloon composed of a patchwork of fabrics illustrating the hopes and dreams of the children of fallen and disabled military heroes. Visitors can make a donation and step into the DreamShip with proceeds going towards scholarships for those children.

Empowering Our Youth

Another huge component of the festival is the youth of Spokane. High school seniors are nominated by their school to compete for a seat on the royal court. Six princesses and one queen are chosen to then represent the community through public appearances and a starring role in the parade. Royal court participants earn scholarship money while also learning invaluable leadership skills and confidence.
 
Kicking off the festival week on May 12 is the Spokane Jr. Lilac Parade, a tradition for 67 years where elementary and middle school-aged kids get to be the star of the parade led by a court of junior princesses. During festival week, don’t miss Spokane’s talented high school seniors in the Lilac City’s Got Talent Show where they’ll dance, sing, and act their way into your heart.

Showcasing Our Region

The Lilac Festival began as a flower festival and parade to celebrate the blooming lilacs planted all over the city in the 1930s. This spotlight on the lilacs of Spokane continues to this day while also showcasing the region in other ways.
 
Festivities this year include the Lilac Legacy Art Show and Awards Party, on May 14, with original pieces submitted by local artists for a chance at becoming the official print of the year. There’s also the Cruizin’ the Falls Car Show on parade day with the classic cars driving the parade route before it starts, and new to the official festival events this year is the Lilac Century Family Run Ride on Sunday, May 20.
 
If you happen to be in Spokane during the Lilac Festival, you’re in for a treat. It’s a time when the big city feels more like a small town as everyone comes together as a community to participate in the event.

Spokane Lilac Festival 2018 Events Schedule
  • Saturday, May 12
    • 10 a.m. – Spokane Jr. Lilac Parade, Downtown Spokane
  • Monday, May 14
    • 6-8 p.m. – Lilac Legacy Art Show and Awards Party, Paint & Pints 
    • 7:30 p.m. – Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Candlelight Ceremony, 1100 W. Mallon Ave.
  • Tuesday, May 15
    • 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – Associated Garden Clubs of Spokane Luncheon, DoubleTree Hotel
    • 11:30 a.m. – 31st Annual Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony, 1100 W. Mallon Ave.
    • 6:30 p.m. – Lilac City's Got Talent Show, Ferris High School
  • Wednesday, May 16
  • Thursday, May 17
    • 7:30 a.m. – Let Freedom Ring Breakfast, Historic Davenport Hotel
    • 5:30 p.m. – Past Royalty Reunion, Luigi's Italian Restaurant
  • Friday, May 18
    • 11:30 a.m. – Queen’s Luncheon, Historic Davenport Hotel
    • 5:30 p.m.  – Spokane Lilac Festival Gala, Historic Davenport Hotel
  • Saturday, May 19
  • Sunday, May 20

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