VFW Lilac Post 5815

Lombard, Illinois

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Lilac Parade

Lombard, Illinois, is known as the Lilac Village, which is why VFW Post 5815 was named the Lilac Post.  The area was first settled by Americans of European descent in the 1830s and was officially incorporated in 1869, named after Chicago banker and real estate developer Josiah Lombard.  See more about the historical background regarding Lombard and Lilac Festivals.

While most of the other cities, towns, and villages in the suburbs near Chicago may have parades on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and/or Veterans Day, THE parade in Lombard, the Lilac Village, is the Lilac Parade.  Each year since 1957 Lombard plans a two-week celebration of Lilac Time in the first half of May.  Events include the coronation of the Lilac Queen, a concert, an art and craft fair (including food vendors, bands, and a kids' zone), Lilac Heritage Tours by the Lombard Historical Society, a Lilac Ball, and the Lilac Parade.  Fundraising for the parade takes place throughout the year.  The Lilac Parade is a rain or shine event.  It is not, however, a lightening, hail, or tornado event.  There have been many years when the parade participants and attendees were cold and wet due to rain and other years where everyone had to bring plenty of water to drink due to extremely hot weather.

The 2020 Lilac Time in Lombard was originally planned for May 1–May 17.  Because of the coronavirus pandemic and Illinois state shutdowns that began in March 2020, all events originally planned for this period were cancelled.  The lilacs still bloomed, and Lilacia Park was open to visitors as long as they maintained social distancing, staying six feet apart.  Restrooms were closed, and no Heritage Tours were available.  In March 2020 the Parade Committee announced that the Lilac Parade had been rescheduled and would be held on Sunday September 13, 2020, beginning at 1:30 p.m.  It will step off at Main and Wilson (Glenbard East High School), and the Theme is "Happy 150th Birthday - Take 2!"

Because the number of new cases of the coronavirus have been increasing, the decision to cancel the 2020 Lombard Lilac Parade was made on August 6, 2020.  We are all looking forward to May 2021 for the next Lilac Parade, which might have the Theme of "Happy 150th Birthday - Take 3."

The reason for the theme is because the 2019 Lilac Parade did get cancelled.  It was the Village of Lombard’s 150th Birthday party, in conjunction with the oldest and largest running event in DuPage County -- The Lilac Time Parade.  It was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 18.  Many of the participants and attendees of the Lilac Parade come from a substantial distance away.  There is no place for attendees or participants in the parade to quickly seek shelter.  Parade floats are not designed to withstand high winds.  There would be no safe way for students and children participating in the parade to reunite with their parents if the parade were cancelled half way through.  Information provided by the National Weather Service and in consultation with the DuPage County Office of Emergency Management showed a high potential of severe weather, including winds up to 60 m.p.h. and quarter-sized hail, was forecast for Lombard at approximately 2:00 p.m.  Storm activity just west of Lombard appeared to be headed right for the parade route.  The decision to cancel the parade was made just after noon, and everyone was notified using social media.  Everyone headed home, and then the weather cleared.  It turned out to be a beautiful sunny afternoon.  Despite the disappointment, the comments from about 90 percent of the Lombard residents were supportive of the decision to put safety first and cancel the 2019 parade.

VFW Post 5815 has participated in the Lilac Parade for many years.  In 2009 the Lilac Post 5815 began renting and decorating golf carts for our members so that more of our VFW and Auxiliary members were able to participate, many of whom were no longer able to walk the approximately 1.5 mile parade route.

Lilac Parade 2009 Lilac Parade 2009
Lilac Parade 2009
Lilac Parade 2009 Lilac Parade 2009

The above photos are from Lombard's Lilac Parade on May 17, 2009.

Historical Background - Lombard and Lilac Festivals

The history of the Lilac Festivals in Lombard, including numerous photos, can be found in the book Lombard's Lilac Time, by the Lombard Historical Society.  This book is available from the Lombard Historical Society Gift Shop, from bookstores, or from Amazon.com.

Lombard has been called the "Lilac Village" since the late 1920s when William R. Plum, affectionately known as the "Colonel," bestowed his world-renowned lilac collection to the village for use as its first public park.  Colonel Plum's 2.5-acre estate was known as Lilacia and began in 1911 after a trip to the Lemoine Lilac Gardens in France.  By the time Plum passed away in 1927, he had amassed over 200 varieties of lilacs and had the largest collection of French hybrids in the world.  At the time of his death in 1927, William R. Plum donated his former home as a public library and his carefully cultivated lilac garden and an additional $25,000 to create the first public park in Lombard. The Lombard Park District Board, headed by William Ralph Plum, Colonel Plum's nephew, accepted the landscape design and services of Jens Jensen, a prominent landscape artist, for the park and purchased an additional five acres of land along Parkside Avenue for $67,000. The Helen Plum Memorial Library was named for his late wife.

Jens Jensen's design created a public space out of Plum's lilac collection with winding paths of native limestone, tulips by the thousands, and a lily pond in the park. The first community-wide Lilac Festival was held in May of 1930, unveiling Jensen's Lilacia and including a Lilac Queen and Court, a pageant, and a wide variety of events and festivities celebrating the village's new park.

During the years 1930 through 1935 the selection of the Lilac Queen and pageant plays were the primary focus of the annual Lilac Festivals in Lombard.  In 1935 as the pageant play was ending, members of the cast began a grand march, winding their way around the park.  This march culminated in a street dance, delighting the visiting crowd.

The focus of the Lilac Festival of Lombard changed in 1936.  A Lilac Queen was selected and crowned, but the pageant play was dropped.  Instead, it was decided to hold a parade through the village's business section.  Businesses, organizations, and individuals were encouraged to enter decorated floats for liberal cash awards.  A series of afternoons and evenings were planned for musicals and dancing to be individually sponsored by various community groups, and the festivities closed with the parade on Sunday, May 24, 1936.  This changed the celebration of Lilac Time to being held throughout the village and not just centered in Lilacia Park.

Because of the ongoing hardships of the Depression, followed by World War II, there were no Lilac Queens, elaborate pageants, or rousing parades during 1937 to 1946.  The lilacs still bloomed each May, and crowds still came to see the peak of the bloom.  The park installed a Hammond organ, and there were nightly concerts for a week in May.  The organ was later replaced by amplified music continually playing throughout the park for visitors to enjoy.  In 1939 DuPage County celebrated its centennial, and Lombard's Lilac Festival featured celebrations and a parade that year.

During World War II all military personnel were admitted free to the park if they showed their identity pass.  In 1942 the Lilac Festival included a USO Community Street Dance held on May 9 in honor of servicemen.  All staff members and patients of Hines Hospital and Vaughn Army Hospital in Maywood were sent invitations to visit the park as guests, and busloads of soldiers and sailors arrived.

The Lilac Queen contest was reinstated in 1947, and the Lilac Parade was reinstated in 1957.  Lilac Time in Lombard is normally a 16-day celebration beginning on the first Saturday in May and ending on the third Sunday.  It begins with the coronation of the Lilac Queen and her court. The grand finale is Lombard's Lilac Festival Parade .

This page was last updated August 7, 2020.