Lilac Festival closes out this weekend with health and wellness event and Lilac run

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It’s the final weekend of the 125th annual Lilac Festival. Highland Park will be full of live music, art, food, and the smell of fully-bloomed lilacs until Sunday, May 21.

The festival runs from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. This weekend is the Second Annual Health & Wellness Experience which connects community members with medical professionals, nutritionists, fitness instructors, and mental health therapists. The event includes free fitness sessions on Saturday and Sunday. You can see a schedule here.

On Saturday, the Lilac Craft Beer Expo is coming to the festival featuring 40 breweries, craft cider makers, and distilleries from around New York State. The expo also includes lawn games, an official Lilac Craft Beer Expo Award, and food vendors.

Then on Sunday, it’s the Lilac run. The 5K begins at 8 a.m. and the 10K begins at 9:30 a.m. The runners will start and finish at Highland Park on Highland Avenue.

This year, guests have enjoyed more than 1,800 lilac bushes and over 500 different varieties. The festival began on Friday, May 12. It’s the largest of its kind in North America and usually draws around half a million visitors.

This year’s poster shows the Highland Park Pavilion, which was demolished in the 1960s after it deteriorated but is being rebuilt. At the opening ceremony, local leaders honored longtime Lilac Festival Producer Jeff Springut with a proclamation, declaring May 12 “Jeff Springut Day.”

Guide to activities:

  • May 12 – Opening ceremonies, 125th-anniversary celebration
  • May 13, 14, 20 & 21 – Art in the Park
  • May 13 – Wine tasting expo & Lilac Parade
  • May 20 – Craft beer expo
  • May 17 – Seniors Day
  • May 20 – Lilac Craft Beer Expo
  • May 20 & 21 – Second Annual Health & Wellness Experience
  • May 21 – Lilac 10k, 5k and Donut Dash

You can learn more about the activities here. There will be over 120 musical performances from local and national acts.

“A lot of people don’t realize the wealth and depth and breadth of good talent there is here in Rochester,” Springut said. “And a lot of these bands, as I’ve mentioned, are breaking out of Rochester and playing around the country.”

Having a lot of local bands is important for the organization, but local doesn’t mean the same music taste.

“The headliners, I guess the overall flavor of this year’s headliners and festival is variety,” Springut said.

Springut says he has gone from New York to Nashville to Dallas to find some of these bands. The lineup will have music all the way from 50s and 60s oldies to New Orleans R&B.

“I got to tell you, one of the things I love about Rochester, I love about Monroe County is we’re a festival town,” Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said.

Headliners like the local Zac Brown Tribute Band, Mikaela Davis and The Record Company from Los Angeles will be joining the 10-day free festival that over 500,000 people attend every year. You can learn more about the acts here.

Lineup for the headliners:

  • Sneezy – May 12
  • Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – May 12
  • Shine – May 13
  • Zac Brown Tribute Band – May 13
  • The Iguanas, The Seven Wonders – May 14
  • The Seven Wonders – May 14
  • Public Water Supply – May 15
  • Mikaela Davis – May 15
  • Organ Fairchild – May 16
  • Sam Grisman Project – May 16
  • Root Shock – May 17
  • Blue Sky Brothers – May 17
  • Stunt Double – May 18
  • Almost Queen – May 18
  • The Founders – May 19
  • The Record Company – May 19
  • Shamarr Allen – May 20
  • Big Eyed Phish – May 20
  • Workingman’s Dead – May 21
  • Into the Now – May 21

Lineup for supporting talent:

  • Personal Blend – May 12
  • Silver Streak, MoChester – May 13
  • Sofrito, BB Dang – May 14
  • Big Blue House – May 15
  • Digglers Bridge – May 16
  • Inside Out – May 17
  • Mothership, Hello City – May 18
  • Steve Grills & The Roadmasters– May 19
  • The Medicinals, Hello City – May 20
  • Head to the Roots, Vintage Pistol, Judah – May 21


  • Lot 1: Main Lot (best for main festival site) – Diagonally across the street from 1111 Elmwood Avenue, Elmwood Avenue is south of the Lilac Festival site. Enter from direction of Elmwood Avenue/Goodman Street.
  • Lot 2: Goodman Street Lot (best for Pansy Bed & lilacs) – Located at 1065 Elmwood Avenue, along Goodman Street. Enter from Elmwood Avenue or Goodman Street.
  • Lot 3: Elmwood Avenue, Lot 1201 Elmwood Avenue – FREE QUICK SHUTTLE to Festival Site and Art in the Park. Former location of the Rochester Psych Center.

The festival first started in 1898, in sync with the blooming of the most extensive collection of lilacs in the Northeast. It’s hosted by Monroe County, the City of Rochester, and Visit Rochester.

Highland Park on a sunny day. (Photo: Colleen Farrell/WHEC)