Everywhere Clevelanders look locally, beautiful flowers are blooming, creating seas of color but if you long for a vacation that will be a treat for your senses with dazzling sights and aromas then journey to the 118th annual Rochester Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York. This free, 10-day event runs from May 6- May 15.
The Festival will be held in Rochester’s 150 acre Highland Park which features over 500 varieties of lilacs and more than 1200 lilac bushes including some rare varieties. Colors of the flowers range from violet and deep purple to sky-blue, white, pink, red-violet and indigo. The Lilac Festival has been named one of the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association.
History of Highland Park and the Festival The park was established in 1888 and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed New York City’s Central Park. Lilacs were first planted by horticulturist John Dunbar in 1892. The Lilac Festival began in 1898 when 3000 people gathered on a Sunday in May to view the blooming flowers. Within 10 years, Lilac Sunday was attracting 25,000 people.
Today, the Festival, a 10 day event, attracts more than 50,000 people from all around the world. Highland Park now has the largest collection of lilacs in the world.
Activities at the Festival include the Lilac Parade on Saturday, May 7 starting at 10:30 a.m. featuring more than 2500 participants, decorated floats, dancers, clowns, costumed characters and marching bands.
The Festival also features the Art in the Park event which will be held on Saturday, May 7, Sunday, May 8, Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15. The show includes handmade wares from over 160 artists, designers and artisans. Hours are 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Other activities at the Lilac Festival include 10 days of free entertainment including performances by the Crawdiddies, The Last Bandeleros, Gaelic Storm, Fabulous Thunderbirds and Revolver. Special events at the Festival include a 10K and a 5K Highland Hospital Run on Sunday, May 15.
Be sure to check out the Wine Tasting & Farmer’s Market where visitors can sample over 150 vintages of wine provided by over 30 winemakers. Offered on Thursday, May 12 and Friday, May 13 from 12:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., each tasting will include pairings of the wine with cheeses and delectable chocolates. The chocolates will be provided by Li-Lac Chocolates, Manhattan’s oldest chocolatier. Tickets are $15 per person. You must be at least 21 years of age to participate in the wine tastings.
This year’s Festival will also feature a Lilac Brew Fest on Saturday, May 14 from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Visitors will be able to sample from 100 artisan craft beers from more than 30 breweries and cideries. Guests will receive a 5 ounce tasting glass with a 2 ounce poring line. Check for pricing.
While you are in Highland Park, don’t forget to check out the rest of the flowers in bloom. Visitors can see azaleas, rhododendrons, forsythia, magnolias, viburnum, a bed of 10,000 hand-planted pansies and more than 15,000 tulips.
There will be a wide variety of lilac-themed souvenirs and merchandise (like soaps, perfumes, candles, chiffon lilac scarves and wine) for purchase.
For those visitors who wish to stay overnight in the area, The Radisson Hotel Rochester Airport is offering a Lilac Festival package deal with a special rate. For more information or to make reservations, call 866-967-9033. The Radisson is located just minutes from the Rochester Lilac Festival at 175 Jefferson Rd.
For more information about the Rochester Lilac Festival, get online at www.lilacfestival.com or www.rochesterevents.com. Highland Park is located at 180 Reservoir Ave. in Rochester, New York. Rochester is approximately a 4 hour drive from Cleveland via I-90.