ROC Holiday Village 2021: Plans announced to bring holiday cheer back downtown


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The spirit of the holidays will return to downtown Rochester this year with concerts, visits with Santa, private igloos, free ice skating, arts and crafts vendors, food, drink, and more.

The ROC Holiday Village returns in 2021 to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Memorial Square for the third time after last year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers of ROC Holiday Village held a press conference Wednesday morning to announce plans for this year’s event, which kicks off on December 3 at 4 p.m. and runs through December 19.

Families can look forward to activities like free ice skating and skate rentals, pop-up restaurants, a shopping village, private cozy igloos, ice events, free live music, holiday concerts, holiday celebrations, free crafts for kids, food trucks, appearances by Santa, petting zoo events, and more. 

“This really feels surreal,” Jenna Knauf, Roc Holiday Village co-founder. “We are so excited to be together again. We are fortunate to be in a supportive community like this that makes a winter wonderland like ours possible.”

“ROC Holiday Village is back!” Mayor Lovely Warren said “We are so excited to have this back this year. It’s been three years since we first started talking about bringing back the magic of the holidays to downtown. It gives families a special experience to enjoy for themselves and their families. It brings me great joy that the holidays are back downtown.”

The schedule for ROC Holiday Village this year is as follows:

  • Friday, December 3
  • Saturday, December 4
  • Sunday, December 5
  • Wednesday, December 9
  • Thursday, December 9
  • Friday, December 10
  • Saturday, December 11
  • Sunday, December 12
  • Wednesday, December 15
  • Thursday, December 16
  • Friday, December 17
  • Saturday, December 18
  • Sunday, December 19

Knauf said hours will vary daily and be posted online. Organizers say this is an inclusive event, with special holiday activities marked for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas.

In its second year in 2019, Roc Holiday Village presented 14 days of festivities and drew more than 125,000 people of all ages to the heart of downtown Rochester at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial Park.

Organizers say this year’s will include an expanded village footprint to better accommodate the guests, with more wood flooring to be installed, as well as more outdoor amenities, triple the amount of outdoor heaters, and more firepits.

Organizers also say they responded to feedback by ditching portable restrooms in favor of heated restroom trailers. Every indoor tent will be heated and equipped with air purifiers to ensure a safe environment.

Due to the popularity of the private igloo reservations in the past, the ROC Holiday Village will expand the offerings. Igloos will go on sale Saturday, November 6. Reservations for the igloos can be made online on that date.

“Last time they all sold out in about two hours,” said Kelli Marsh, ROC Holiday Village co-founder. “Each will be open for six people for $135. A bigger group igloo can be booked today by contacting the venue directly.”

Organizers say 26 retail and food vendors will be on site each day and offers a great opportunity for families to shop local when buying gifts for the holidays. A rotating group of food vendors will be present in The Lodge, with more food trucks lined up on Court Street.

Additionally, Wegmans, which sponsors the free ice skating, will continue to offer the activity for free downtown through January 2, 2022. Wegmans also offers free cookies at ROC Holiday Village.

The ice rink will feature a figure skating concert, sled hockey, and more. The Ryan Callahan Foundation will also sponsor some ice skating activities, including hockey skill seminars and competitions, like fastest skater, passing, plus agility and stick handling.

“We wanted to be part of this amazing event, and our missions aligned,” Callahan said. “Everyone can come, everyone is accepted.”

Wednesday’s press conference took place at the recently renovated Theater at Innovation Square in downtown Rochester where organizers announced a partnership to offer free holiday concerts for the public to attend during select festival hours. These concerts will be available on a first come, first serve basis.

“On behalf of Visit Rochester, we are so excited that this is coming back,” said Don Jeffries, Visit Rochester President and CEO. “This is the perfect venue for those who live in Rochester, but also for people that come out of town.”

In 2020, organizers announced that the festival could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic and New York State’s guidelines that restricted large gatherings.

“This is a festival city, so to go so long without one is not right,” said Sean McCarthy, ROC Holiday Village co-founder. “Hopefully we are the start of everything getting back to normal.”

Watch Full Press Conference:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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