Lilac Festival is back: Dates announced after event approved by Monroe County, New York state

Lilac Festival

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester’s unofficial start to summer will return this spring after a one-year hiatus.

The Lilac Festival tradition will continue in Rochester this year for the 123rd time, officials announced Wednesday. Festival organizers say the proposed plans were approved by Monroe County and New York state.

The festival will take place over three consecutive weekends in May:

  • May 7 – 9
  • May 14 – 16
  • May 21 – 23

“Festivalgoers can look forward to enjoying the event in a new structure conducive to the health and safety of attendees and in full compliance with New York State reopening regulations, including reduced capacity, mandatory face coverings, and sanitizing stations. The event’s extensive planning efforts have been approved by Monroe County and New York State,” officials said in a Wednesday press release. “Returning favorites soon open for registration and ticket purchasing on LilacFestival.com include the Lilac 5K/10K, Donut Dash, Craft Beer Expo, and the Wine Expo and Food Pairing. As always, walking the lilac trails through Highland Park is free and open to the public.”

Highland Park’s trails feature the largest collection of lilacs in the northeast, offering more than 500 varieties of lilacs and more than 1,200 plants — a big reason why the event annually drew hundreds of thousands of attendees in pre-pandemic years.

This year will not feature live music, according to the Lilac Festival website which says: “Unfortunately, and you know why … no live music in 2021.”

While details and safety procedure knowledge are limited at this time, officials say they will hold a press conference on April 1 to share more about this year’s events and what to expect, as well as how it will be done in a COVID-safe manner and in compliance with current state regulations.

The April 1 press conference will also include the unveiling of the 2021 festival poster.

Beginning April 2, event and arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33% capacity for up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors in New York state. With attendee testing, capacity increases to 150 people indoor, 500 people outdoor — with distancing and face covering requirements.

So with testing in place, the Lilac Festival could feasibly organize an event with 500 people for an outdoor event, but organizers did not indicate plans for testing requirements in Wednesday’s announcement.

For bigger events and gatherings, New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica said New York state will roll out an app where people can track COVID-19 test results for access to certain events.

“So we have an app that we have been working with IBM on that app, when you get tested, with your consent, the results of that test will be reported automatically to the app,” Mujica said. “And then you can show proof of a negative test upon entrance to any of these events that require testing.”

Earlier this month, festival organizers expressed frustration on a lack of communication and guidance from state and county officials regarding approval on this year’s event proposal. Without clarification or approval from respective parties, festival organizers notified food vendors that their deposits would be returned, but as of Wednesday, that approval had finally been granted.

Last year’s Lilac Festival was, of course, canceled in the wake of COVID-19.

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

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