The 121st annual Rochester Lilac Festival is upon us so it's time to get ready for some flowers, nice weather, and lots of live music! Visitors stopped by the Spectrum News Rochester booth in Art in the Park last weekend. A big thanks for everyone who came out and made it so festive. If you took a picture at our photo booth — and there was a lot of you — you can look for the picture here on our Lilac Festival gallery.
Lilacs in Bloom?
One of the biggest annual questions regarding the Lilac Festival is the bloom status of the event's namesake. A visit to Highland Park, the site of the event, offers a rare opportunity to experience the incredible beauty and intense fragrance of more than 500 varieties of lilacs on approximately 1,200 plants. And although they aren't lilacs, the entrance to the park at South Avenue and Reservoir Drive also houses the annual bloom of the tulips, which provides a kaleidoscope of brilliant color.
Mark Quinn, superintendent of horticulture for Monroe County Parks, says the lilac shrubs are in excellent condition, and notes with the warming spring temperatures, the lilacs are progressing towards blooming in time for the festival. With more than 150 acres of gardens at Highland Park, there are a wide variety of flowers, trees, and plants like sweet magnolias, azaleas, and pansies.
As always with the Lilac Fest, there's some great live music. As is tradtion, this year's includes both national touring acts as well as upcoming regional performers across a wide range of genres. The complete list will feature 70 acts in total with performances starting early in the day and continuing until after sunset throughout the 10-day event. The festival will continue its tradition of offering these concerts for free — a big reason it attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually from across the state and beyond.
Friday, May 10 — Yonder Mountain String Band, JunkYardFieldTrip, and The Tragedy Brothers
Saturday, May 11 — The New Mastersounds, Willie Nile, The Klick, Nobody’s Marigold, The Ruddy Well Band, and Camp ROC Star
Sunday, May 12 — Big Something, Mosaic, Foundation, Kat Wright, Soul Passenger, Significant Other, and Camp ROC Star
Monday, May 13 — BB King's Blues Band featuring Michael Lee of NBC's The Voice, Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People, The Buddahhood, Pittsford Mendon High School Choir, Creekside Steel Drum Band, and Harris Hill 5th Dimension
Tuesday, May 14 — Julian Marley, The Medicinals, Sam Nitch, Abraham School 22 Band and Choir, Holley Elementary Concert Band and Choir, Paul Road Elementary Band and Chorus, and Penfield Show Choir
Wednesday, May 15 — Lee Rocker of The Stray Cats, Eli "Paperboy" Reed, John Lewis Band, Five Point Performance Company, Pal-Mac Middle School Ensemble, and Richard Mann Elementary 5th Grade Band and Chorus
Thursday, May 16 — Maceo Parker, Cory Wong from Vulfpeck, Vanishing Sun, and Rochester City School District’s “Bloomin’ Arts”
Friday, May 17 — Classic Albums Live Presents Led Zeppelin II, The Blind Spots, Jack West, Rochester City School District’s “Bloomin’ Arts”
Saturday, May 18 — Zac Brown Tribute Band, Aaron Lipp & the Slack Tones, Mikaela Davis, JUMBOshrimp, and Camp ROC Star/Elvio
Sunday, May 19 — The Lizards (a Phish tribute band), Big Eyed Phish (Dave Matthews tribute Band), The Blind Owl Band, Alyssa Trahan, Bellas Bartok, Camp ROC Star, and a DJ for the race after party
For Free or VIP?
As always, entry to the Lilac Festival is free, but there are VIP options available. Tickets are available for the Recipe 21 VIP Ultra Lounge, a reserved area first introduced last year, which offers festival goers an up-close viewing experience. Benefits of the VIP lounge include front stage access, in-tent and outdoor lounge area, full private cash bar (with beer, wine, and spirits), private air-conditioned restrooms, commemorative lanyards, complimentary chair massage, one free drink and food available for purchase in the tent.
In addition, the festival is adding a new ticketed experience for fun in the sun. It's called "The Party Deck" and comes with a tented full bar and private restrooms. These special tickets offer an upgraded viewing experience from the traditional free general admission plus some epic Lilac Festival swag. VIP tickets are now available for purchase online.
What to Eat and Drink?
There's plenty of music, but there's also no shortage of food and drink options available. With more than 40 food and drink vendors across the festival grounds, it's sure to take you all 10 days to eat your way around. Visit the Big Top Food Tent, the Lilac Loop, and the Craft Beer Garden, where new brews cycle in each day.
Food vendors this year include B. Original Bacon Dog, Big Kahuna's Candyland, Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, Debbier's Enterprises, Doc Popcorn, Frozen Flavors, Island Wraps, Henry's Old Fashioned Kettle Korn, Mediterranean Cuisine, Nancy's Fried Dough, Neno's Tacos, Nick Tahou's Oberst Concessions, Red Osier, Rob's Kabobs, Roll'n Deep, Sheila's Fun Foods, Sonny's Landing & Eat Greek, Stick Lips BBQ, The Meatball Truck Company, Traveler's Kitchen, and Tuscan Wood Fired Pizza. Additionally, there will be food trucks on site, including Chef's Catering, Craft Crepes, Konca Ice, Le Petit Poutine, Marty's Meats, Macarollin, Stingray Sushi Fushion, Wingnutz, and Wraps on Weels.
The festival will also be carrying Genesee Brewery's popular summer beer, the Ruby Red Kolsch, for the duration of the event. Additionally, there will be 36 other local wineries, breweries, and distilleries represented, highlighted by a Wine Tasting Expo at the Special Events tent on Saturday, May 11, followed up by a Craft Beer Expo at the same tent the following Saturday, May 18.
There's plenty of shopping options, featuring handmade creations from more than 130 regional artists and craftspeople. Whether it's unique ceramics, drawings, graphics, fiber, glass, jewelry, sculpture, wood, or mixed media, there's locally-sourced art ready to be yours. Oh, and you can't forget about the official 2019 Rochester Lilac Festival poster, created by artist Alison Cote.
With more than 2,500 participants, including 20 marching bands, dancers, costumed characters, and community organizations, the annual Lilac Parade is one of the most special times of the festival. This year's event will take place on Saturday, May 11 at 10:30 a.m. Worried you won't be able to make it? No worries, we'll be airing the event live in its entirety on Spectrum News.
Run for Charity... and Donuts!
More than 3,000 runners from across the region take to Highland Park every spring for the annual Lilac Run, a tradition that had endured for 40 years. The Dunkin' Dash is a one mile run, up and down Highland Avenue, and is perfect for adults and children. In addition to the Dunkin-Dash, there is also a 10K and a 5K race. A portion of all race proceeds benefits Williw Domestic Violence Center. The after-party includes a live DJ, pancakes, mimosas, and bellinis. This event takes place Sunday, May 19. Registering grants runners a T-shirt and 12 Dunkin' donut holes. Registration is available online, or on the day of.
Judge a Garden
The fourth-annual, fast-paced “Garden Battles” charitable event was inspired by popular reality-based competitions like Chopped. This free family entertainment event tests the gardening skills of local celebrities including our very own meteorologist Michael Gouldrick and reporter Jim Aroune. Each group will design a unique garden-scape with help from a master gardener from Cornell Cooperative Extension. Visitors will vote for their favorite, with first place receiving $1,000 and the runner-up $500 for the local charity of their choice.
For the Kiddos!
The festival is a family-friendly event, and for the kids, there will be appearances by Arthur, of PBS Kids, on May 13 and 14. The world's most famous aardvark will be reading famous childhood books and will be available for photo opportunities with families.
Spice It Up
Recipe 21 hosts the Second Annual Bloody Mary Expo on Sunday, May 19. Come enjoy the most creative and delicious Bloody Marys from Rochester area bars and restaurants. Spice up your life with this exclusive three-hour Bloody Mary sampling, and then stay for the great slot of live music on the festival's final day.
"Dear Rochester ..."
The event begins Friday, May 10, and the festival will continue their partnership with the United Way of Greater Rochester for their Opening Day Celebration. The ongoing "Dear Rochester" campaign will feature a collage wall of notes at the Highland and South entrance, and will also have a photo booth on site.