One of the strengths of Lombard's lilac collection is its variety.
Some bushes bloom early, reminding visitors Lilac Time is on its way.
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Other plants hit the nail on the head, bursting with fragrance and purple blooming beauty from May 4-19 -- this year's dates for the annual festival in Lilacia Park, 150 S. Park Ave.
And still others are late bloomers, allowing the scent of lilacs and the appearance of spring to continue after Lilac Parade day concludes the official celebration.
The Lombard Park District's Executive Director Paul Friedrichs says the impossible question he faces most frequently goes something like this: Will Lilacia Park's lilacs be blooming during Lilac Time this year?
And while he can never truly answer -- as the exact timing of the blooms is in Mother Nature's hands, not his -- he falls back on the variety of lilacs that call the park home.
About 800 lilacs are planted in Lilacia, and different varieties bloom in white, yellow and, of course, all shades of purple and magenta.
In the past two years, the park has seen one late blooming period, in 2011 because of cool spring temperatures, and one early blooming phase, in 2012 because of an abnormally warm March.
This year may be right on schedule, but Friedrichs says he is still hesitant to predict, leaving that to the bloom-o-meter on the park district's website that tracks the plants' progress from "beginning to bud" to "full bloom" to "fading to green."
No matter when the lilac flowers open, the Lombard Park District, Lombard Garden Club, Lombard Historical Society, Lombard Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Lombard Junior Women's Club, as well as the Helen Plum Memorial Library, have planned events as varied as the versions of lilacs to entertain park visitors.
Historical tours, library events, a sculpture show, culinary activities and a 5K for humans and dogs are among the daily activities and one-time events that combine to make Lilac Time a favorite tradition in Lombard.
Lilacia Park tours
The Lombard Historical Society traditionally offers two types of Lilac Heritage tours -- one for history buffs focused on the background of Col. William Plum, whose backyard lilac collection became Lilacia Park, and another for horticulture enthusiasts that delves into the different varieties, or cultivars, of lilacs that call the park home.
Both tours are $3. They are offered at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, May 4, 5, 11, 12 and 18, as well as Wednesday, May 15; and 11 a.m. Tuesday to Friday, May 7-10; and 11 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, May 14, 16 and 19.
During Lilac Time, the Helen Plum Memorial Library offers a "garden in a glove" event for green-thumbs to create their own mini gardens inside plastic gloves. The free drop-in family activity is scheduled for 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 8.
The following week, the library will offer two drop-in story times outside on the plaza deck, weather permitting. If it rains when the story times are scheduled at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, May 14 and 15, the readings for children will go on inside instead.
"It's in celebration of spring and a chance to use our deck," said Pam Rivet, marketing assistant at the library.
The Lombard chamber of commerce brings a variety of artists and vendors to St. Charles Road between Main and Elizabeth streets for an arts and craft fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5, that helps get Lilac Time started each year.
More than 80 artists and crafters will be featured this year at the sidewalk sale that also includes a free kids' zone, entertainment and food available at downtown eateries.
The next weekend, art moves into Lilacia Park during the DuPage Invitational Sculpture Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11.
Artists are expected to display between 35 and 40 pieces, some in the open air, and others under tents to protect them from the elements, said Marj Placzek, secretary of the Lombard Arts Coalition, which plans the show.
Just as the weather and status of the lilac blooms changes each year, Placzek said the sculptures and artists participating in the juried show bring a fresh look to the park each year.
Mutt Strut 5K
The annual Lilac Time Mutt Strut 5K and 1-mile Puppy Path Saturday, May 18, has been billed as "80 percent human, 20 percent dog," and park district organizers say it's a fun and friendly environment for all.
Starting at 8 a.m., the 3.2-mile run and 1-mile walk both allow people to participate with or without their dogs. Registration costs $20 before Wednesday, May 15, and rises to $25 afterward, with a T-shirt and admission to the pancake breakfast tent included.
Annual beer and wine tastings the park district offers during the final weekend of Lilac Time always fill up fast, but this year a couple other culinary-themed events will bring lemonade and pancakes to park-goers' palettes as well.
A Lilacs and Lemonade event at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 9, will feature free lemonade and a discussion of spring flowers to those who register with the park district at lombardparks.org or by calling (630) 620-7322.
And a pancake breakfast prepared by park board members after the popular Mutt Strut 5K is open to all for $5 or $3 for children 12 and younger. A canine-friendly area of the dining tent will be available for those whose pets are still on the premises after completing the running event. The breakfast will be served from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 18.