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 annual Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York. This free, 10 day event runs from May 11 – May 20. It is approximately a 4 hour drive from Cleveland.
Rochester Lilac Festival 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, 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 Olmstead 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 visitors.
Today, the Festival, a 10 day event, attracts more than 500,000 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 Sunday, May 13 starting at 10:30 a.m. featuring decorated floats, dancers, clowns, costumed characters and marching bands.
This year the Festival will hold two Arts & Crafts shows. The 20th annual Lilac Festival Arts & Crafts Show will be held on Sunday, May 13 and the Art in the Park Show will be held on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20. Hours for all craft shows are 10:30 a.m. – 5 p..m.
Other activities at the Lilac Festival include 10 days of free entertainment on the main stage in the park including performances by national recording artists. Special events at the Festival include a 10K and a 5K Family Fun Run and a Wine & Farmer’s Market. There is a $5 fee at the Wine & Farmer’s Market for unlimited wine tasting and a sampling glass.
While you are in Highland Park don’t forget to check out the rest of the flowers in bloom. Visitors can view 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 products available for purchase including apparel, wine and lilac-scented items like candles, soap, perfume and lotions.
There will be plenty of food available from numerous international food vendors.
Hours for the Rochester Lilac Festivals are 10:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. daily. Again, admission is free.
Because of the expected high volume of visitors, it is recommended that you make your plans early to attend the Lilac Festival. For more information get online at www.lilacfestival.com.
Rochester, New York is approximately a 4 hour drive from Cleveland via I-90.