ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Friends and families came out together to smell the flowers at Rochester’s Lilac Festival, with local vendors happy to see all their clientele back.  

The first day of the Lilac Festival is always a fun time for everyone, but this time around, people are having a complete experience after the return of food, retail and concerts back in full swing since the pandemic.  

Since the gates first opened at 10:30 a.m. Friday, festivalgoers were greeted with a kind of Lilac Festival setup they haven’t seen since 2019. Food shops opened on every path with no crowd control restrictions.  

“It’s really exciting,” festivalgoer Brittney Forshee said. “We were really excited to get here and have some food or wine slushy. It just feels normal again.”  

“It’s wonderful, I’ve missed it because this is one of the best shows we do all year,” turkey leg vendor Brian Axtell added. “The people are wonderful, all the vendors are wonderful, the music is wonderful.”  

In the middle of it, was a concert stage free for all to enjoy without needing a ticket to get into a closed tent area. Bands with the Rochester City School District were able to take the stage this year, making parents thrilled.  

“It felt really good to have them out and about,” Denise Sheets, whose son is performing with the School of the Arts told us. “Most us parents have not been able to see a concert seeing it’s been virtual the past two years, so it was great to be out.” 

For the first weekend, the festival is offering a free art show around the gardens and wine tasting events. Attracting some groups to come from out of town.  

“We actually came from Buffalo because we’re dental students at UB, so we had a weekend off,” Gabi Dierna said. “And decided to make the trip to Rochester and noticed this was the first weekend of the festival and are excited we got to include this in our trip.”  

“I wasn’t expecting a live band always playing,” Ricardo Gonzalez-Argoti of Buffalo said. “Or all the different good food as well as the beautiful gardens over here. So, it’s added to the excitement.”  

Leaders with Events Rochester who’s putting on this Festival anticipate around 500,000 people to come out this year. After the first weekend, the Lilac Festival will return the Thursday-Sunday over the next two weeks.  

Three parking lots are set up around Highland Park, but on Saturdays and Sundays people can park at the Monroe Community College’s main campus and then pay to be bossed over to the festival and avoid traffic.