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Article updated: 5/3/2013 10:26 AM

Lilac Queen tradition still reigns in Lombard

By Marie Wilson

At more than 80 years and counting, the coronation of the Lilac Queen is one of the longest-standing Lilac Time traditions in Lombard.

The coronation takes place on the first official day of Lilac Time, allowing the newly crowned queen to reign over more than two weeks of festivities.

This year, a queen will be crowned from a field featuring Glenbard East High School students Claire Castelli, Megan Cotteril, Taylor Godbey and Jennifer Ruhl, and University of Illinois student Laura Lovetere at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in the center of Lilacia Park, 150 S. Park Ave.

Lombard Junior Women's Club members will open an envelope sealed since final judging on April 27 to find the name of the young woman to become queen. The coronation ceremony heralds the beginning of Lilac Time as much as the blooming bushes, said Nancy Spartz, a Junior Women's Club member involved with this year's Lilac Queen program.

"Families bring their kids," Spartz said. "It turns out to be an event that people look forward to when they have young girls."

The Lilac Queen contest, a scholarship program, continues because it keeps attracting new generations of girls to participate.

"The younger girls look forward to becoming princesses. They admire these girls," Spartz said. "These girls have kept that tradition going."

It begins with a call for participants in late February or early March, seeking young women ages 16 to 21 to enter a preliminary judging round. This year, 22 queen hopefuls entered representing Glenbard East, Glenbard South and Glenbard West high schools; Montini Catholic High School; Willowbrook High School; College of DuPage; and the University of Illinois.

Dressed as though they were attending a job interview, the participants answered three questions for female judges who don't live in Lombard, chosen for their expertise in business, volunteering or community life, Spartz said. The answers were evaluated in five categories: school involvement, community involvement, poise and personality, looks and self-presentation.

"We keep our focus on fair, impartial judging," Spartz said. "We treat each girl as if they are queen."

The five chosen to advance to final judging April 27 again answered three questions and appeared in an evening gown, sash and tiara, completing a short walk for judges to gauge their poise in formal attire.

After a new queen is crowned Saturday, she will appear at the Lilac Time Art and Craft Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 5; a mother-daughter tea party hosted by the club; the 54th annual Lilac Ball at 6 p.m. Friday, May 10; and at least one other Lilac Time event.

"The focus of the parade is on the Lilac Court," Spartz said.

The queen and her court of four princesses ride near the front of the parade, which steps off at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19, from the corner of Wilson Avenue and Main Street, where it heads north until turning briefly east on Maple Street.

The four princesses and the Lilac Queen each receive a $1,000 scholarship funded by the village through a grant to the Junior Women's Club.

In the event of rain, the coronation will be at Lombard Common at Grace Street and St. Charles Road.

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