The Lilac Parade — an annual Lombard tradition since 1929 — is set to return after a three-year hiatus due to bad weather and COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
Nearly 30 floats and 115 parade entries are expected Sunday, which marks the conclusion of the village’s annual Lilac Time festival.
In 2019, bad weather caused the first cancellation of the parade, which is the festival’s capstone event. And then, the global pandemic deferred festivities.
“Basically, the pandemic killed us for the past two years,” said Ellyn Murphy, a past Lilac Parade chair and current co-secretary.
In 2020, COVID-19 safety concerns prompted the volunteer parade committee to cancel it outright. As history had shown, a Liberty Loan Parade in Philadelphia in 1918 was documented as a superspreader event for that era’s deadly influenza pandemic known as the “Spanish flu.”
In 2021, organizers still didn’t feel comfortable reviving the parade in May, so it was postponed until September and later canceled.
Murphy hopes there will be lots of pent-up demand for the parade’s return.
“We anticipate having some of the crowd favorites: Jesse White Tumblers, South Shore Drill Team and all the Shriners — as many as we can get,” Murphy said. “We’re having some stilt walkers, and we’re hoping to have a giant wheel, which is a person in a wheel who goes down the street.”
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Murphy also is pleased the current and previous Lilac royal courts have been invited to participate, though not all previously commended community members are able to attend.
Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic, organizers have asked marching participants not to hand out treats or cards to be extra cautious.
This year’s parade theme is “Season of Sports,” chosen for no particular reason, according to Murphy.
“After 60, you start to repeat things,” Murphy said. “It’s basically what people want to play, so hopefully some of the floats will have themes like traditional baseball, basketball, but I’m hoping to see a lacrosse team.”
Owing to the parade’s floral namesake, Murphy expects there will be plenty of purple and lilac-colored banners and floats.
“We don’t ask everyone to do things in purple or with flowers,” Murphy said. “We are not particular about that.”