Lilac Festival doubtful for May, organizers hopeful for event later in summer

Lilac Festival

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — COVID-19 strikes again.

Following in the footsteps of 2020, it appears there won’t be a Rochester Lilac Festival this May — when the lilacs are in full bloom — as organizers await approval from local and state officials.

However, organizers of the festival say they are working on producing a 4-6 day event later in the summer at a county park that would “give all of us and our greater community an opportunity to at least start to reproach normalcy.”

Organizers provided the update in an email to food vendors, saying deposits made would be returned next week.

Festival organizers said they submitted multiple proposals to the City of Rochester, Monroe County, and the governor’s office to allow for some kind of festival to take place in May, but they have not received answers or approval.

“We believe that our proposals of a drastically scaled down event in May are do-able and safe, but as of this date, we can’t seem to get an agreement on this from the ‘powers that be,'” organizers wrote in an email. “Community safety is everyone’s first concern.”

Organizers said they communicated with vendors so they could plan ahead, but are frustrated with the lack of answers from elected officials and hope to get clarification soon.

“We are ready, willing, able and anxious to stage community gathering events safely,” organizers wrote.

During Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an update to the state’s gathering guidelines.

Effective March 22, outdoor gathering capacity increases from 10 people to 25 people. Indoor gatherings remain at 10 people limits. For social gatherings in public spaces: Indoor event capacity increases from 50 people to 100 people and outdoor event capacity increases from 50 people to 200 people. The governor said social distancing and mask requirements remain for gatherings.

Beginning April 2, event and arts and entertainment venues can reopen at 33% capacity for up to 100 people indoors and 200 people outdoors. 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 say they still have not received concrete approval for any of their plans.

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 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.”

The Lilac Festival is the largest free festival of its kind in North America, with 500 varieties and 1,200 lilac plants, daily live music, and more entertainment. The Lilac Festival has been named one of the top 10 Flower Festivals in the country, according to Oprah Magazine.

Lilac Festival organizers released this statement Thursday afternoon:

Producers of The Rochester Lilac Festival, The Springut Group, have become aware of rumors about the status of this year’s Lilac Festival. We want to make it clear that the 2021 Rochester Lilac Festival is not canceled. The festival is currently being re-imagined to accommodate State and County health and safety regulations. A formal proposal for this event has been submitted to The City of Rochester, Monroe County and New York State for review and approval. Our team, vendors and sponsors eagerly look forward to the County’s feedback on the proposed plan. Upon approvals, we will immediately begin preparations and will share an update with the community at that time. 

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

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