ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The 124th edition of the Rochester Lilac Festival is right around the corner. It’s time to get ready for fresh flowers, live music, local art vendors, festival food, and more.

On this page, we’ll lay out all the events and attractions for you and your family to look forward to over the 2022 Lilac Festival.

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.

This year’s festival is back in full swing for the first time since 2019 and follows 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

According to festival organizer Jeff Springut, the decision to maintain the three-weekend schedule was due to convenience for visitors, better business opportunities for vendors, and to allow a wider timeframe for guests to witness a peak lilac bloom.

The Music

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. — Zac 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.

The Lilac Festival is also bringing back the VIP High Spot Party Deck in 2022 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.

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:

Lilac Unity Parade: Saturday, May 7

The theme of this year’s Lilac Festival Parade is Unity and it will feature more than 2,500 participants. Upon the parade’s completion, there will also be a Big Sing event. New in 2022, the concert at Highland Park will feature 200 gospel singers from across Monroe County.

The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. on South Avenue and Science Parkway. From there it travels north on South Avenue to Highland Avenue where it turns south past the lilac gardens before ending at the corner of Highland Avenue and Goodman Street.

Bleacher seating will be located next to the grandstand on Highland Avenue. The parade will be televised on News 8 WROC and live-streamed on Rochesterfirst.com.

Weekend shuttle services will begin at 8:30 a.m. with parking available at the four Lilac Festival Park lots. More information on festival parking is listed below.

Art in the Park: Saturday, May 7 & Sunday, May 8

This year’s festival will feature the return of Art in the Park. The juried art and craft show will take place on the festival’s first Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on the first Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Participating vendors will have jewelry, clothing, ceramics, paintings, soaps, woodwork, and more. Visitors will be able to find Art in the Park on Reservoir Avenue, just a two-minute walk from the main festival site. You can see a full list of participating artists here.

Wine Tasting Expo: Saturday, May 7

Regional, artisanal, and specialty release wines will be on full display as the Wine Tasting Expo returns this year to the festival’s Special Events tent.

Guests will be able to sample a variety of wines, purchase bottles of their favorites, and take advantage of a wine valet. If you purchase a bottle of wine during your visit, it can be held for convenient pickup at the end of the event.

The Wine Tasting Expo will take place in two sessions. Session 1 will run from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. for VIPs and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for general admission. Session 2 will run from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for VIPs and from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for general admission.

Looking to save a few bucks? Consider purchasing tickets in advance. Advance GA tickets cost $30 and advance VIP costs $45. Day-of tickets cost $45 and $60, respectively. VIP tickets will offer guests early access to wine vendors and exclusive samples, a food voucher, a tasking glass, and more.

This event is 21+ only with a valid ID required.

Garden Battles: Saturday, May 14

Cheer on your favorite local television and radio personalities as they duke it out in Garden Battles — a fast-paced event inspired by popular reality-based competitions like Chopped and Iron Chef.

The Garden Battles will take place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Teams will work with one identical set of plans and hardscape materials to create 15’x15′ gardens, aided by Master Gardeners from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. The winning team will make a $1,000 donation to their charity of choice with $500 to the runner-up’s charity.

This year’s hosts will include Jim Salmon of the Home Repair Clinic radio programs on WHAM 1180 and John Welsh, a hardscape industry expert since 1995.

Not to sound biased, but we’re rooting for the News 8 WROC team of Ally Peters and Amal Elhelw, but they’ll be facing some stiff competition from a star-studded cast of local media members, and more.

Seniors Day: Thursday, May 19

The final Thursday of the festival will be Seniors Day, with special entertainment performing on the Lilac Center Stage beginning at 10:30 a.m. Free parking is available each weekday before 3 p.m. There will also be $5 lunches and plenty of time to stroll through the gardens and enjoy the lilac scenes and scents. Food vendors will also be offering lunch specials for seniors.

Health and Wellness Experience: Saturday, May 14 & Sunday, May 15

Health and wellness will be a focus at Highland Park during the second weekend of this year’s Lilac Festival. There will be yoga in the flowers, a workout in front of center stage, cycling on Highland Avenue, and more.

Flower Fitness is a way to experience fitness and the Lilac Festival like never before with passes for classes on sale now. There will also be a Lilac Health and Wellness Expo at the Special Events Tent and a Lilac Health and Wellness Speaker Series, with keynote speaker Camille Conti.

Craft Beer Expo: Saturday, May 21

The Craft Beer Expo is back and bigger than ever. This year’s version will take place on the final Saturday of the festival at the Special Events Tent for two sessions. Session 1 will run from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. for VIP and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for general admission. Session 2 will run from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for VIP and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for general admission.

The Expo will feature more than 40 breweries, cideries, and distilleries. It’s designed to showcase craft beverages from across New York and the county to an audience of local, regional, national, and international guests.

This year’s Craft Beer Expo isn’t just bigger for participating businesses, but also for footprint as the event will have an expanded area with lawn games, an official award, designated food vendors, and more.

Advance VIP tickets are available now for $60 and advance general admission tickets cost $45. There is also an advanced designated driver ticket available for $15. VIP tickets include early access to vendors and exclusive samplings, plus a food voucher, tasting glass, koozie, and a lanyard. Designated driver tickets include entry, a food voucher, and a bottle of water. Day-of tickets are also available for $5 more than the advance tickets price tiers.

Click here for tickets to this year’s Lilac Festival Craft Beer Expo. This event is 21+ only with valid ID required.

Lilac Run: Sunday, May 22

There are a few different options to get festive while getting fit at this year’s Lilac Festival. The Lilac 5K/10K course winds through the beautiful suburbs of Brighton, with the start and finish at Highland Park. There will be a post-race party with music, mimosas, and plenty of food.

For those looking for a shorter run, there will also be the 1-mile Donut Dash, which is perfect for all ages and includes a donut pitstop!

Registration is open now for this year’s Lilac Run. The event benefits Champion Academy, which helps urban teens in poverty overcome traumatic experiences and helps fuel their drive to improve as students, citizens, and future professionals.

Kids’ Zone: Each festival day

The Kids Zone, a family favorite at the festival each year, is back in 2022. Opportunities for kids are offered throughout the park for the little ones, including a zipline, bounce houses, rides, and midway games. Open each day of the festival, the Kids Zone offers a little something for children of all ages.

The Gardens

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 Avenue, you’ll be greeted with the annual bloom of tulips which provide a kaleidoscope of brilliant color:

Food and Drink

It wouldn’t be a Rochester festival without featured favorites and unique cuisine. The Big Top Foot Tent returns near the center stage as an outdoor food court with some roof shelter. There will also be food vendors throughout Highland Park. Here’s a list of this year’s food vendors and where to find them:

The Purple Crosswalk

  • Big Kahuna Smoothies
  • Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
  • Nancy’s
  • Sonny’s Landing
  • Abbott’s
  • The Big Cheese
  • Rudy’s Bubble Tea
  • Debbie’s Concessions

Beyond the Arches

  • Meatball Truck
  • Marty’s Meats
  • Stringray Sushi
  • Le Petit Poutine

Garden Battles Loop

  • Island Wraps
  • Henry’s Kettle Corn
  • Roll N Deep
  • Macarollin
  • Chick ‘N Out
  • Taco Dero

The Traffic Circle Trail

  • Oberst Concessions
  • Mary’s Foods
  • Sticky Lips BBQ
  • Mediterranean Cuisine
  • Nancy’s
  • Munchies ROC City Empanadas
  • JMB Concessions

Art in the Park (1st weekend)

  • Macarollin
  • Wraps on Wheels
  • Tuscan Fired Pizza
  • Dainty Donut Factory
  • Kona Ice
  • ROC City Sammich

Pair that wood with a beverage at one of the two Bubbly Bars, the Craft Beer Garden, or multiple beers and wine tents.

Highland Park Map

Lilac Festival Map

Ground Rules

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. on each festival day whereas:

  • Guests 16 and under are not permitted entry unless escorted by a 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

Parking

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. 

Poster

This year’s official festival poster was produced by fine artist and portrait painter Diana Elmslie:

Elmslie currently teaches classes and accepts commissions through her home studio in Wheatland. She studied fine art at RIT and graduated with a BFA in 1971. She pursued a graphic arts career for three and a half decades and continued after retiring in 2004. She’s a member of the Rochester Art Club and remains active in displaying her works through local shows and galleries.

For the Lilac Festival collectors and enthusiasts, prints of past posters are available online.