Last fall, the first-ever Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival hit the local art scene, and it was quite the spectacle.

As a student at the Eastman School of Music, I had never seen so many people on Gibbs Street. A giant stage had been erected in the middle of the street practically overnight. Live music provided a near-continuous backdrop that lasted from first thing in the morning to late into the night. Thirty-two thousand people of all races, social classes, and walks of life descended onto downtown Rochester, bringing with them incredible energy. Twenty venues opened their doors for over 100 shows, making last year’s Fringe one of the strongest premieres of any festival in the Rochester area.

This year promises to be even bigger and better than last year. The festival has been expanded to 10 days and has twice the number of shows in the lineup. A spiegeltent, a 20th-century traveling music and dance hall, will be erected in the middle of the city and host many events including a circus. This, according to festival producer Erica Fee, is “no small feat.”

Rochester is known for its festivals, which bring art in many forms, music of all sorts, incredible minds, and money to the city. But according to Fee, it brings much more than that.

“What doesn’t it bring?” she said. “It allows us, as a community, to ask questions for which we don’t know the answers.”

Planning has now become a year-round operation. Fee moved to Rochester from London to head the project. University President Joel Seligman and other UR leaders helped orchestrate the festival’s inception as early as 2008.

Shows ranging from headline hits like Dave Barry to up-and-coming artists, many of whom are Eastman graduates, will be performing.

Some of the shows are geared toward children, but the young at heart are always welcome to attend.

When asked what she is looking to most this year, Fee said, “If I said that, the other shows would have my head on a platter. There is something for everyone.”

University students need only to hop on the Red Line bus (Monday to Friday) or the Orange Line (Weekends) and hop off at Eastman to find themselves in the middle of the action. The festival is slated to run Sept. 19-28. Show and ticket information is available on the festival’s website, rochesterfringe.com. It’s definitely a festival not to be missed.

Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015.



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