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Lilacs return to Lombard for annual celebration

LOMBARD – Lombard residents are gearing up to paint the town purple as the village’s annual two-week celebration of Lilac Time kicks off Saturday and culminates with the Lilac Parade on May 19.

“It’s just a great time of year,” said Keith Giagnorio, who was sworn in as village president Thursday. “Just walking through Lilacia Park, [the Lombard Park District] does a great job with it. That park is unbelievable this time of year. I can’t get enough of it.”

Lombard took its first steps toward becoming the Lilac Village when Col. William Plum and his wife, Helen, brought Lombard’s first two lilac bushes from France in 1911. The couple developed a fondness for lilacs and eventually grew their collection to more than 200 varieties of French, German and Asian lilacs.

When William Plum died, he had no heirs and donated his estate to the village with the stipulation that his grounds become the village’s first park – Lilacia Park – and his home become the first library. The Helen Plum Memorial Library was created in honor of his wife.

Special events and activities will run through the next 14 days, and many of them will be at the village’s historic Lilacia Park, which features more than 700 lilacs and 25,000 tulips that, weather dependent, will bloom during
the festival.

This year’s key events include the coronation of the Lilac Queen on Saturday, the Lilac Time Art and Craft Fair on Sunday, the Lombard Garden Club’s lilac sale from Thursday through May 11, the Lilac Ball on May 10 and the Lilac Parade on May 19.

With the cooler-than-normal temperatures Lombard has experienced this spring, most of Lilacia Park’s lilacs will be late to bloom. Some of the bushes are getting close, however, Lombard Park District horticulturist Jerry Budd said.

“If the temperatures stay like today, it won’t be too much longer,” Budd said Wednesday afternoon when temperatures crept into the 80s.

Some of the park’s early blooming cultivars were budding mid-week, and Budd said he expected them to start opening soon.

Lilacs blossom with warm temperatures, so their arrival each spring is just as variable as the weather conditions. As for the April 18 flood that left much of the village underwater, Lombard’s lilac won’t look much different because of it, Budd said.

“Most of the people coming to Lilacia Park for Lilac Time won’t even be able to tell we had a flood,” he said.

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