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 115th annual Rochester Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York. This free, 10 day event runs from May 10 – May 19. 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 Saturday, May 11 starting at 10:30 a.m. featuring decorated floats, dancers, clowns, costumed characters and marching bands.
The Festival also features a huge Arts & Crafts show which will be held on Saturday, May 11, Sunday, May 12, Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19. The show will include handmade wares from over 120 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 on the main stage in the park featuring performances by national recording artists like Eddie Money, the Spin Doctors and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Special events at the Festival include a 10K and a 5K Family Fun Run on Sunday, May 19. There will also be plenty of children’s activities.
New this year will be Wine & Chocolate Tasting where visitors can sample over 150 vintages of wine provided by over 30 winemakers. Offered on Tuesday, May 14, Wednesday, May 15 and Thursday, May 16 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., each evening will include pairings of the wines with gourmet foods, cheeses and decadent handmade chocolates and desserts. Tickets are $10 per person and include 15 wine-tasting coupons, a commemorative wine glass, access to an outdoor tasting garden and live entertainment. You must be at least 21 years of age to participate.
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 (including a Lilac teddy bear) and merchandise ( like soaps, perfumes and wine) for purchase.
Several area hotels are offering special Lilac Festival deals and rates including the Holiday Inn Marketplace (877-643-4614) and the Staybridge Rochester (800-970-4535). Call for availability and pricing.
For more information on the Rochester Lilac Festival get online at www.lilacfestival.com. or www.rochesterevents.com.
Rochester, New York is approximately a 4 hour drive from Cleveland via I-90.