This year, the lilacs should peak during the Lilac Festival

Every year at this time, Rochesterians begin debating whether the lilacs will be in peak for the city’s annual Lilac Festival.  Last year, an unseasonably warm spring caused them to bloom early. That has certainly not been the case this year, so they should be just about perfect!  I find there’s something very magical about visiting Highland Park when the lilacs are in bloom. In addition to the beautiful  sea of white, sky blue, violet, red-violet, indigo and even pale yellow flowers with petals that flutter deliciously on the breeze, you can stand almost anyplace in the park and the scent of these fragrant flowers will waft to you, erasing memories of even the longest and most beastly winter!

The festival is free to attend, but there is a fee for some activities

The history of Highland Park goes back to 1888 when famed nurserymen George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry gave the city 20 acres of land, now known as Highland Park. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park.  Horticultural expert John Dunbar might be considered the father of the park’s lilacs, because he is responsible for cultivating the first 20 varieties of lilacs there in 1892. The city’s Lilac Festival began in 1898 when 3000 people gathered one Sunday in May to stroll among the Lilacs in Highland Park.  Within 10 years, Lilac Sunday was attracting 25,000. Today, a half million people from all over the world enjoy this free festival in Highland Park that now boasts the largest collection of lilacs in the world, with 1200 bushes representing 500 varieties of lilacs.

The fragrant scent of lilacs wafts to you throughout the park

This festival is known, not only for the beauty of the lilacs and the park itself, but also for the variety exhibitors, arts and craft vendors (exhibiting on May 14 & 15 and May 21 & 22 only), food (one of the most frequently-asked questions is where to buy Nick Tahou’s famed “garbage plate”) and free entertainment that includes exceptional local, regional and national talent including these headliners:

Most frequent question? Where can I buy a Nick Tahou's "garbage plate"

The 2011 Lilac Queen, Amanda Torchia, will reign over the YNN Lilac Parade that, this year kicks off on Saturday May 14 at 10:30 a.m.  There will be a separate Children’s Lilac Stage with daily entertainment and the ever-popular Medved 5K and 10K race on Sunday May 22 is a must-do for runners!  Race fees are $20 if postmarked or registered on line by May 18, 2011, $20 if registered in person at Medved prior to race day, $25 if registered on race day; SPECIAL FAMILY RATE: Families of 4 or more may deduct $2 from each entry; Entries must be submitted together; 10K & 5K SPECIAL: Run both distances for $30 pre registered; $35 on race day.

There are also rides and activities for children, and plenty of opportunities to purchase lilacs to take home, as well as other plants.  If you’re over 21, you’ll enjoy the Farmer’s Market and Wine Tasting presented by Casa Larga under the Big Top on Thursday, May 19 from 12 Noon to 7 p.m.

Although attendance at the festival is free, there is a fee for some of the activities.

These are just a few of the activities taking place, so for a full schedule of happenings at the Festival, CLICK HERE.  While you’re at the Festival, be sure to visit Lamberton Conservatory and the Vietnam Veteran’s MemorialCLICK HERE for a pdf map of Highland Park that you can print out.

Rochester’s Lilac Festival is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. every day.  A good place to access the park is from Highland Avenue and Mount Hope Avenue in RochesterCLICK HERE for additional directions, including info on weekend shuttle parking at Monroe Community College.
For more photos of the park, here’s a photovideo of some of my favorite images  from last year:

Visions of Highland Park and Rochester’s Lilacs from CAROL WHITE LLEWELLYN on Vimeo.

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