ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It’s actually happening: The Lilac Festival has started.

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

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

“As this COVID thing rolled out and rolled over us, there have been many discussions on whether to cancel the Lilac Festival for a second year in a row, or take a closer look to see what we might be able to do,” said organizer Jeff Springut.

This year’s event will not feature the traditional ten days of free live music, due to safety concerns, but it feature some live music at the new Lilac Bistro and Cafe. Other festival events include the aforementioned Lilac 5K/10K, Donut Dash, Craft Beer Expo, the Wine Expo and Food Pairing, plus more family fun. And of course, as always, walking the lilac trails through Highland Park is free and open to the public.

More information, tickets, and registrations for this year’s Lilac Festival events:

Tickets for the wine tasting and craft beer expos went on sale April 6, and can be purchased online.

Springut said the kids amusement park will be back this year on South Avenue, open on festival days from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. He added that the Art in the Park will be open Saturdays and Sundays with more than 70 artists and crafters.

“There is no question that the health of everyone in our community is our No. 1 goal,” Springut said. “At any time capacity is reached, visitors to the art show will be of capped and we will require everyone to wear masks.”

Springut said there will also be a farmer’s market near the purple crosswalk on Highland Avenue for folks to purchase fresh cut flowers and more. The farmer’s market will be open all days and hours of the festival.

“I am honored and just incredibly excited to be able to be here today and help the community prepare for the 123rd annual Rochester Lilac Festival and I can’t tell you, honestly, just how happy that it makes me feel to be able to say those words,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “This has been an incredibly tough year and we all know last year’s festival was canceled because of the pandemic and after all we’ve been through, we really need to celebrate.”

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.

“We all know that the Lilac Festival is not just about trees,” Bello said. “It’s about community, it’s about community pride in gatherings of our families together and having fun after long, long winter. I’ve been coming to the Lilac Fest since I was born and I think last year was the first year I ever missed, and my family cannot wait to get back outside to be part of it again and see our neighbors and celebrate the community.”


This festival is free and open to the public. Certain areas of the park do have rules.

The following ground rules apply to the Festival Site within Highland Park.

  • Please wear a mask and exercise proper social distancing:
  • No pets allowed.
  • Bicycles, skateboards and in-line skates are not allowed.
  • Patrons can bring a small chair, umbrellas, or blankets.
  • Bandanas are not allowed.
  • To enhance your festival-going experience, the Rochester Lilac Festival has implemented a parental escort program, the details of which are as follows:

Through the hours of the Festival (10:30 am – 7:00 pm) each day:

  • Persons the age of sixteen and under are not permitted unless escorted by a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult.
  • All underage persons must always remain within the company of their escort.
  • Each escort may supervise up to five youths.
  • All persons appearing to be less than 17 years of age should be prepared to show valid identification which includes a photograph and date of birth.
  • Valid forms of identification include: Driver’s license, non-driver ID card, college ID, Passport, Visa.

Full press conference

The county executive said this is a first step to bringing back other events and festivals as more people become vaccinated.

“With increasing number of people being vaccinated, I think this trend will continue and I’m hopeful that it will continue over the next several weeks and months,” Bello said. “Our community needs a win and we need to be able to gather again and the 123rd Lilac Festival will give us that opportunity.”

“The Lilac Festival will be the first public event of its size since the start of this pandemic and it will offer the opportunity to show we as a community are heading toward a sense of normalcy,” said Monroe County Director of Parks Patrick Meredith.

Beginning April 2, event and arts and entertainment venues were allowed to 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.

More from the organizers

New Offerings:

  • Lilac Mini Farmer’s Market: Festivalgoers will be able to buy fresh flowers from Bar Fiore, Lilac Hill wine from Casa Larga Vineyards, favorite fragrance products from Highland Lilac Perfume and official Lilac Festival merchandise, including the 2021 poster and t-shirts. 

Returning Favorites:

  • Art in the Park: Reservoir Avenue will be lined with talented artisans once again this year, at the annual Arts & Crafts show, taking place all three Saturdays 10:30-6:00 and all three Sundays, 10:30-5:00. 
  • Family-Friendly Amusement Rides: There will be family-friendly amusement park rides this year within designated areas on the park grounds for kids to enjoy some open-air fun all festival days.
  • Craft Beer Expo: Craft Beer enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a seated tasting session with food pairings from local eateries on May 8 and 9 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., 2:45 to 5 p.m., and 6 to 8:30 p.m. This ticketed event will require the purchase of a table of four or six for a seated, COVID-safe experience. 
  • Wine Tasting Expo:  Wine connoisseurs will also enjoy a ticketed, seated event with options to buy a table of two, four or six in the special events tent, complete with samples and food pairings. Wine tasting will occur on May 15 and 16 from 2:45 to 5 p.m., and 6 to 8:30 p.m.
  • The Lilac Run 5K & 10K: The much-anticipated 5K/10K race is back this year with a new location at Genesee Valley Park on May 23 and is the perfect way to kick-off the return of warmer weather. This in-person race will follow a wave format as well as a virtual option to ensure the comfort and safety of all runners. Those interested can now register at  
  • The Dunkin Dash:Back by popular demand, younger runners can participate in a one mile fun run to the Dunkin’ pit-stop to grab their 10 Munchkins (presented in a voucher form this year), also located in Genesee Valley Park. Occurring on May 23, those interested can register at

Local economic impact

Businesses in the area of Highland Park are excited to see a small trickle down affect.

Jennifer Posey – who owns Hedonist Artisan Chocolates on South Avenue – says she’s thrilled the festival will be happening this year.

“We make things that are lilac truffles, themed ice creams for the festival so theres a magic in the air for sure,” she said. “There is a lot of walking on these streets going there, people park as far down as here.” She describes festival season as ‘magic in the air.’

Posey says this isn’t the only festival that generates traffic near her shop. But she and many others say it will be interesting to see if this kickoff can set an example for other festivals this summer.