Hundreds of people lined the streets of downtown Pullman on Saturday for the 28th Annual National Lentil Festival Grand Parade, which shut down one of the city's busiest streets and shocked and awed children for more than hour.

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins led the parade by foot and was followed by local police and firefighters who blared the sirens of their emergency vehicles. Local cheerleaders belted out cheers, and the sounds of the Pullman High School Marching Band and the Washington State University Marching Band lingered down the three-lane street. An antique fire engine puffed thick smoke from its smokestack, politicians rode in the fanciest cars they could find and even princesses on a float from the Ritzville Float Association made the lentil party.

Nicholas Hrdlicka, an 8-year-old from Moscow, said he's been to the Lentil Festival many times, and the fancy cars are his favorite part.

"Because they are fancy and decorated a lot," he said.

Tase T. Lentil, Dan D. Pea and Chel C. Chickpea couldn't be found in the large crowd for comment on their favorite part of the legume celebration.

After the parade people were full steam ahead to Reaney Park, where children sprayed fire hoses with local firefighters, and adults were able grab a drink at the festival's beer and wine garden while listening to live music by headliner Love and Theft.

The park was also packed with live lentil cooking demos throughout the afternoon, and of course food.

The day started with the Tase. T. Lentil 5K Fun Run and the Lion's Club Lentil Pancake Breakfast at Cougar Plaza at 7:30 a.m. The breakfast supported the Lions Club, and those getting a bite were also treated to WSU Women's Basketball players like freshman guard Cameron Fernandez assisting children in shooting and slam dunking on portable junior hoops.

"I didn't realize it was such a big thing," Fernandez said of the festival. "It's a family bond thing. It makes me feel like I'm home."

Pullman's Walk of Fame inductee ceremony followed the breakfast. A group of about 60, including most of the City Council, city department heads and community members, watched as the five new inductees were recognized.

The five included late Washington State University President Elson S. Floyd, Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, community member and former Whitman County Commissioner Nora Mae Keifer-Olfs, WSU football coach and winner of the 1916 Rose Bowl William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz and iconic WSU football player Steve Gleason, who has battled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis - commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease - and created the Gleason Initiative Foundation, which provides services to individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries.

Each inductee will have a plaque cemented on downtown Pullman sidewalks.

Pullman Radio News Director Evan Ellis was the master of ceremonies at the 22nd Annual Legendary Lentil Cook-Off, where Chris Morrill of El Paso, Texas, took home $2,000 for his Lentil Crusted Fried Chicken Breast with Spicy Lentil Saute.

Morrill said it took him about a day and a half to drive up from Texas. He said he's participated in many cooking competitions but none was as friendly or fun as the Lentil Festival's cook-off.

Morrill said the cook-off lacked the stern looks and competitive attitudes others hold and had a home-like feel to it. He said it was also the first time he was ever introduced to his competitors.

"We don't get that where we compete," Morrill said. "This is a big part of this town - I'm just happy to be here."

Fire Chief Mike Heston said he missed the National Lentil Festival last year because he was battling massive wildfires throughout the state.

Heston said one of his favorite parts of the festival is always Friday night's chili, which is served from the world's largest bowl of lentil chili.

Festival Director Alexandria Anderson said Friday night the festival very well could have seen record first day attendance. Anderson said at about 8 p.m. they began to run out of supplies.

She said Saturday was a strong turnout but it's not believed to be a record.

"I've heard some say it's the best thing Pullman does," retired Sunnyside Elementary School teacher Lu Luhring said. "It really is total community."


Josh Babcock can be reached at (208) 883-4630, or by email to jbabcock@dnews.com.

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