ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Winter isn’t over quite yet, but it’s never too early to start thinking spring … especially when the Rochester Lilac Festival is bringing back free concerts with a lineup that’s loaded with talent and variety.
Festival organizers joined Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, and other local officials Wednesday at Record Archive to announce the 2022 musical lineup headliners, marking the return of the event’s signature live music concert series for the first time since 2019.
“We need to continue making Rochester a place known for festivals,” Evans said. “This is such an important festival. I grew up near this festival and this isn’t just an event that put Rochester on the map, but it’s also a great economic opportunity with so many visitors coming to our city.”
Due to COVID-19, 2020’s festival was canceled. The 2021 edition, which was one of the first large-scale events to return in Monroe County since the beginning of the pandemic, included ticketed shows in a special events tent to reduce and control crowd capacity.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back, talking about the Lilac Festival,” Bello said. “This has been two tough years. Everyone here fought hard, but we did so to come back and we are back.”
The 124th annual Lilac Fest at Highland Park will follow the pattern of the 2021 iteration, which featured three consecutive weekends instead of the traditional ten consecutive days.
- Week One: May 6-8
- Week Two: May 12-15
- Week Three: May 19-22
Headliners for this year’s Lilac Festival include:
- Friday, May 6
- 7 p.m. — Blues Traveler
- 5:30 p.m. — The Coupe De’Villes
- 4 p.m. — Steve Grills & The Roadmasters
- Saturday, May 7
- 5:30 p.m. — Zach Brown Tribute Band (two sets)
- 4 p.m. — JunkYard FieldTrip
- 2:30 p.m. — Cool Club & the Lipsker Sisters
- Sunday, May 8
- 7 p.m. — Driftwood
- 5:30 p.m. — The Sideways
- 4 p.m. — Teagan & the Tweeds
- 2:30 p.m. — JUMBOshrimp
- 1 p.m. — Big Blue House
- Thursday, May 12
- 7 p.m. — UpRooted with Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root
- 5:30 p.m. — Black Joe Lewis with the Honey Bears
- 4 p.m. — Texas King
- Friday, May 13
- 7 p.m. — Blue Sky Brothers
- 5:30 p.m. — Root Shock
- 4 p.m. — Litz
- Saturday, May 14
- 7 p.m. — 7 Wonders
- 5:30 p.m. — Low Cut Connie
- 4 p.m. — The Collection
- 2:30 p.m. — Parsonsfield
- Sunday, May 15
- 7 p.m. — Into The Now
- 5:30 p.m. — Workingman’s Dead
- 3:30 p.m. — The Collection
- 2 p.m. — Kitchen Dwellers
- Thursday, May 19
- 7 p.m. — Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene
- 5:30 p.m. — Organ Fairchild
- Friday, May 20
- 7 p.m. — Aqueous
- 5 p.m. — Ripe
- 4 p.m. — Vintage Pistol
- Saturday, May 21
- 7 p.m. — Big Eyed Phish
- 5:30 p.m. — Bumpin Uglies
- 4 p.m. — The Medicinals
- 2:30 p.m. — Adrianna Noone
- Sunday, May 22
- 7 p.m. — Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
- 5:30 p.m. — Dirty Blanket
- 4 p.m. — Claudia Hoyser
- 2:30 p.m. — Personal Blend
- 1 p.m. — MoChester
In total, this year’s Center Stage will highlight more than 85 musical sets over the three festival weekends, including nationally renowned acts, local supporting acts, and featured performances from music programs of local schools. There will also be performances by the young musicians that make up Elvio Fernandes’ ROC Star Academy, comprised of 11-to-21-year-old aspiring artists.
“Safely bringing back our beloved free live music concert series is something that we have looked forward to since the start of the pandemic,” said festival organizer Jeff Springut of Rochester Events. “We have a great mix this year of national and local favorites, and we’re excited to see the lawn come alive once again in 2022 while guests enjoy the performances planned by our talented line-up.”
Things To Do
Organizers say Lilac Festival attracts more than 500,000 daily annual visitors and those guests will be able to enjoy more than just the music. Activities and attractions for this year’s festival include:
- Craft Beer Expo
- Wine Tasting Expo
- Lilac Health & Wellness Experience
- Art in the Park
- Dunkin’ Dash
- Lilac 5K & 10K
- Lilac Parade
- Garden Battles
- Festival Food
- Seniors Day
- Kids’ Zone
And if all that wasn’t enough, there are, of course, the lilacs. Highland Park boasts the largest lilac collection in the United States, with a rare opportunity to experience the beauty and fragrance of more than 500 varieties of lilacs on approximately 1,200 plants.
With three festival weekends, chances are there will be some peak blooms in time for your visit:
The lilacs are the star of the show, but don’t sleep on the pansy bed.
With a new walkway encircling the garden, the hand-planted pansy bed features some 10,000 plants in an oval floral “carpet.”
Each year the pansies are positioned to make a special design, making it an annual destination for festivalgoers.
Even with the pandemic cancellation in 2020 the pansy bed still offered a message of hope — literally:
And we can’t forget to mention Highland Park’s grove of rhododendrons and azaleas. As you walk the winding path east through the lilacs, you’ll find your way up the slope to this area with as many as 700 varieties of these plants, alongside mountain laurel, Andromeda, horse chestnuts, spring bulbs, and wildflowers.
Keep going from there and you’ll find the Pinetum, an arboretum with 300 species and varieties of conifers from around the U.S. and world. There are also Japanese maples, 35 varieties of magnolias, tree peonies, crabapple, and flowering dogwood trees, a barberry collection, a rock garden with dwarf evergreens, and a large variety of leafy shade trees.
But wait, there’s more.
At the entrance to the park at South Avenue and Reservoir Drive, you’ll be greeted with the annual bloom of tulips which provide a kaleidoscope of brilliant color:
The Lilac Festival is also bringing back the VIP High Spot Party Deck in 2020 for visitors to enjoy their shows with some top-notch perks. Ticketed guests here will get front-stage access, in-tent and outdoor lounge areas, a full private cash bar with wine, beer, and spirits, plus private climate-controlled restrooms, free chair massages, and free snacks.
VIP tickets will soon be available on the Lilac Festival website.
Highland Park Map
Lilac Festival is free and open to the public, but certain areas of the park do have rules and the following apply to the festival site within Highland Park:
- No pets allowed
- Bicycles, skateboards and in-line skates are not allowed
- Guests can bring a small chair, umbrellas, or blankets
- Bandanas are not allowed
There is also a parental escort program from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. of each festival day whereas:
- Guests 16 and under are not permitted entry unless escorted by parent, legal guardian or responsible adult
- All guests 16 and under must remain within the company of their escort
- Each escort may supervise up to five youths
- Any guest appearing to be less than 17 years old should be prepared to show valid ID
- Valid ID forms include Driver’s license, non-driver ID, college ID, Passport, or VISA
Public parking is available entering at 1440 South Avenue, Rochester NY, 14620. Parking is $5 per car, but parking is free on Fridays before 3 p.m.
Organizers say vehicles parked illegally on side streets surrounding the festival will be ticketed and/or towed.
People with disabilities who have a wheelchair hang tag should use Public Parking Lot 2 and enter from South Avenue.
Watch Full Announcement:
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.