Despite this year’s unprecedentedly mild winter and early spring, students and members of the UR community will be able to enjoy blooming lilacs at Rochester’s annual Lilac Festival as they have for the past 114 years, according to Monroe County’s Superintendent of Horticulture Mark Quinn.
The Lilac Festival, which showcases the largest collection of lilacs in the world and which is the only 10-day, free festival of its kind in North America, will run from May 11 to 20 this year and is often a popular attraction for the UR community, as it coincides with commencement and other end of the year festivities.
At a press conference on Tuesday, April 17 attended by Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards and County Executive Maggie Brooks, Quinn assured the crowd that the festival, which draws throngs of people both nationally and internationally, “will have lilacs, and will have people to enjoy them.”
“Obviously we had an early spring and we are hoping for some cool weather before the festival,” Quinn said. “The collection will bloom a little early, but there is a long bloom period. We’re hoping to have beautiful spring weather.”
Highland Park, where the festival has been held officially since 1898 and unofficially since 1892, has 1,200 bushes and 500 varieties of lilacs to showcase at the festival. Of these, around 60 to 70 percent are medium bloomers, while about 10 to 15 percent are in bloom now and another 10 to 15 percent are considered late bloomers that might not be in peak bloom until as late as the first week in June, Quinn said.
Because of this huge spectrum of lilac varieties, Quinn is optimistic that even if some have bloomed prior to the festival, others will be in their full glory during it. Regardless, Quinn believes this year’s weather bodes for an even better festival than last year, during which rain and inclement weather forced organizers to close it for a full four days.
Monroe County Parks Director Larry Staub, who joked at the press conference about this year’s “ten day winter,” also shared this optimism.
“We will see blooms soon and we will continue to see blooms through May and June,” he said. “That’s the beauty and fortune of having the world’s largest and finest collection.”
Last year, the Lilac Festival drew 400,000 people from all over the country and the world and serves as what many see as a vital economic driver for the Rochester region, generating about $3 million in revenue in past years, according to Brooks.
Headlining groups for the festival, announced Tuesday, include Johnny Winter, Cowboy Mouth, Red Baraat, Steve Tyrell, The Wailers, Melissa Manchester, Lou Gramm, Steel Magnolia, The Farm and Southside Johnny. The festival will also feature a parade on May 12, 5- and 10-kilometer road races on May 20 and an arts and crafts show on May 12, 13, 19 and 20. For a full schedule of events, visit lilacfestival.com.
Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.