ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Lilac Festival 2021 will look a bit different.

What You Need To Know

  • Lilac Festival 2021 plans are announced for an event that will have COVID-19 restrictions
  • The festival will be held during three separate consecutive weekends in May beginning the 7th
  • The horticulturist says the lilacs are showing signs they'll be in full bloom for the festival


Plans for the annual event were announced on Thursday.

“This has been an incredibly tough year, and we all know last year's festival was canceled because of the pandemic, and after all we’ve been through, we really need to celebrate," said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello at a news conference with other leaders and organizers.

It follows plenty of doubt and worries about a potential cancellation of the Lilac Festival for the second year in a row due to COVID-19 — but a collaboration from the community is finding a way to make it happen.

“The Lilac Festival will be the first public event of its size, since the start of this pandemic," said Monroe County Parks Director Patrick Meredith.

Lilac Festival 2021 will be a reimagined festival designed with a COVID-19 safe format, abiding by New York State guidelines. If you go, you will be required to wear a face mask and follow social distancing protocols.

"If somebody is not wearing a mask, they will be asked, ‘please put your mask on’ and if they don’t, they’ll be asked to leave," said Don Jeffries, Visit Rochester president & CEO.

“Will it be the same as pre-COVID? No way. Will it give us an opportunity to get out and begin to re-socialize? You bet. It’s been said that our community needs a win, you’ve heard that before today, we believe that this reimagined Lilac Festival is that first win," said Jeff Springut of Rochester Events.

On any given normal year, the festival brings about a $3 million boost to the local economy. “If we got to half of that this year I'd be thrilled," said Jeffries.

“This event and festivals and tourism, in general, are so important, they provide a paycheck for so many of our neighbors," said City of Rochester Deputy Mayor James Smith.

The festival will be held during three separate consecutive weekends in May beginning on the 7th.  

There won’t be as many vendors or events in 2021. Its success could be what determines plans for the rest of Rochester’s famous festivals this season.

“So we can control how many people go into the art show, how many people go into the special events tent, we can control all that. In and out of the park is controllable. So yes, I think other festivals are going to have to look and see how they can do this, and present that so they can get approval to do it, but I'm hoping this is just the beginning," said Jeffries.

The horticulturist says the lilacs are showing signs that they'll be in full bloom for the festival.  

“I absolutely think it helps with people's overall feeling of wellbeing, being out in the park," said Mark Quinn, superintendent of Horticulture for Monroe County.

“I've been coming to the Lilac Festival since I was born, I think. Last year was the first year I ever missed the festival and my family cannot wait to get back outside to be part of the community, get to see our neighbors, and celebrate the rich history that we have here in Rochester and Monroe County," said Bello.

So coming soon – Lilac Festival 2021, with some new changes but the same lilacs we know and love.