‘We love the lilacs’: Weather doesn’t keep crowds away from Lilac Festival

Lilac Festival serves as an economic engine for Rochester

Lilac Festival serves as an economic engine for Rochester

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It hasn’t been the best of weather for the opening of Rochester’s Lilac Festival — but that hasn’t been stopping people from enjoying the flowers, food and music at Highland Park. Today is day one of 10 for the free celebration.

What’s new at the festival this year? Among other things, there’s the new sensory space for folks to decompress, made in partnership with local nonprofit AutismUp. It’s a cool-down space for families, with soft lighting, coloring books and other low-stimulation activities farther away from the crowds.

But just like every other year, over where all the action is, the festival already is getting big crowds on Day One. They started right when the doors open, and they have only grown.

Starting right when doors open at 10:30 a.m. each day, festival-goers will get to enjoy some live music right away. Organizers are starting music earlier than in the past, bringing local bands and some national headliners to the park. Rochester’s own Danielle Ponder takes the stage Thursday, May 16.

As usual, the festival is free, with $10 parking in some lots around the park.

One vendor at the festival, operating Little Debbie’s XYZ, described it as her Super Bowl. There are dozens of vendors, mostly food trucks, lining the pathway. Don Jefries with Visit Rochester says that Carnival Eats, a show on Cooking Channel, will be here filming most days.

Though it’s free to enter, many of the 500,000 people expected to attend grab a bit to eat, or buy some Lilac Festival merch. And both weekends this year, Art in the Park will bring out all kinds of crafters.

Highland Park is a Monroe County park, so both the county and the city of Rochester benefit from all the sales tax on these items. Mayor Malik Evans said Friday morning that the festival is an economic engine for the city, bringing in tourists from all over the state.

News10NBC spoke with a few of the vendors about their thoughts on the fest.

Debbie Rathbun, owner of Little Debbie’s XYZ: “We really enjoy it here because it’s family oriented. I like the music, and I like the straight ten days we don’t have to tear down and set up.”

Abriana Cenci, employee with Sonny’s Landing: “We’re hoping for a lot of people, to see everybody’s faces come and enjoy the food — hopefully its not gonna rain.”

News10NBC also spoke with visitors who came right in the gates as soon as they opened this morning. They were mostly locals, who were coming to enjoy the same exact thing they do every year. Folks said they love coming to enjoy the flowers, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy the live music.

We asked everyone for their favorite part of the festival:

Donald Beckwith: “Oh, the music — and the food. My favorite food is the gyros. I look forward to that and the Red Osier.”

Alexus Anderson. Oliver Baker, Ethan DeSalvo: “The flowers.” “Flowers are beautiful.” “Honestly I just like being able to go to all the vendors, being able to talk to all these different people.” “The food is good too!”

Levalia Smith and Donielle Kelly: “We look forward to it every year, we love to see the snow ending, and we love the lilacs.” “And I love way more flowers!”

From the 5 p.m. broadcast:

Some new elements in this year’s Lilac Festival

Some new elements in this year's Lilac Festival

From the 4 p.m. broadcast:

News10NBC at the opening day of the Lilac festival

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