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Article updated: 5/4/2013 4:56 PM

Festival commences with crowning of Lilac Queen

By Marie Wilson

As the 83rd annual Lilac Time festival began Saturday afternoon in Lombard, 16 descendants of a woman who helped launch the first celebration were in the audience.

Granddaughters, great granddaughters and great, great granddaughters of historic Lombardian Katharine Reynolds were on hand in Lilacia Park as this year's festival began with the Lilac Queen coronation.

Female Reynolds descendants from across the country joined Lombard residents, park board members and trustees in applauding as Glenbard East High School senior Megan Cotteril was named 2013 Lilac Queen.

"To be here at the pageant our grandma helped to start, it's a sense of connectiveness," said Katharine Reynolds, a granddaughter of the historic Lombard resident by the same name.

The Reynolds women were visiting Lombard, where their ancestor wrote the 1919 novel "Green Valley" and published the village's first newspaper, to experience Lilac Time for the first time.

The event they attended Saturday, the coronation of the Lilac Queen, is a tradition as old as the festival itself.

Nancy Spartz, chairwoman of the Lilac Queen program for the Lombard Junior Women's Club, said the customary ceremony has transcended generations because it gives young girls positive role models and the community a time-tested way to begin Lilac Time festivities.

"The tradition of the ceremony is what makes it so special," said 2012 Lilac Queen Jennie Mueller, as she prepared to transfer the crown to her successor.

Mueller, a freshman at Loyola University studying nursing and psychology, shared a few words of wisdom with the five Lilac Princesses before Spartz opened an envelope and read, for the first time, the name of the new queen.

"Each of you will always be Lombard royalty," Mueller told the princesses, including Cotteril, Claire Castelli, Taylor Godbey, Laura Lovetere and Jennifer Ruhl.

Once Cotteril was named queen and adorned with her crown, sash and deep purple cape, the 18-year-old lifelong Lombard resident shared her memories of watching the annual Lilac Parade in awe of Lilac queens and princesses past.

"As a little girl, I admired them and knew I wanted to be a princess when I grew up," Cotteril said to a crowd of more than 100. "It's a great honor to know I have a positive impact on children in Lombard."

Cotteril and this year's princesses will be back in Lilacia Park and downtown Lombard on Sunday for the art and craft fair hosted by the Lombard Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Lilac Time continues until May 19 and includes tours of the park, concerts, a Lombard Garden Club Lilac Sale May 9-11, and the Lilac Parade May 19.

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