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Lilac Festival lineup: free concerts return to Highland Park after 2-year hiatus

Editor’s Note: This full press conference video is being rendered and will be attached soon.

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Winter isn’t quite over yet, but it’s never too early to start thinking about spring…especially when the Rochester Lilac Festival brings back free concerts with a lineup full of talent and variety.

Festival organizers joined Monroe County Executive Adam Bello, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans and other local officials Wednesday at Record Archive to announce the headliners for the 2022 music lineup, marking the return of the live music concert series of the event for the first time since 2019.

“We need to continue to make Rochester a known place for festivals,” Evans said. “It’s such an important festival. I grew up close to this festival and it’s not only an event that put Rochester on the map, but it’s also a great economic opportunity with so many visitors coming to our city.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 festival has been cancelled. The 2021 edition, which was one of the first large-scale events to return to Monroe County since the pandemic began, included paid shows in a special event tent to reduce and control the capacity of the crowd.

“I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back, speaking of the Lilac Festival,” Bello said. “It’s been a tough two years. Everyone here fought hard, but we did it to come back and we’re back.

The 124th annual Lilac Fest at Highland Park will follow the pattern of the 2021 iteration, which featured three consecutive weekends instead of the traditional ten consecutive days.

  • First week: May 6-8
  • Second week: May 12 to 15
  • Third week: May 19 to 22

The music

This year’s Lilac Festival headliners include:

  • Friday, May 6 — Blues Traveler
  • Saturday, May 7 — Zach Brown Tribute Band (two sets)
  • Sunday, May 8 — Driftwood
  • Thursday, May 12 — UpRooted with Rusted Root’s Michael Glabicki, Black Joe Lewis with the Honey Bears
  • Friday, May 13 — Blue Sky Brothers
  • Saturday, May 14 — Low Cut Connie, 7 Wonders
  • Sunday May 15 – Workingman’s Dead, in the present
  • Thursday, May 19 — Anders Osborne, Jackie Greene
  • Friday, May 20 — Watery, Ripe
  • Saturday, May 21 — Bumping Uglies, Big Eyed Phish
  • Sunday, May 22 — Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

In total, this year’s Center Stage will feature more than 85 musical ensembles over the three weekends of the festival, including nationally renowned acts, local support acts and featured performances from the music programs of the local schools. The full daily lineup will be announced shortly.

“Safely bringing back our beloved free live music concert series is something we’ve been looking forward to since the onset of the pandemic,” said festival organizer Jeff Springut of Rochester Events. “We have a great mix of national and local favorites this year, and we are delighted to see the pitch come alive in 2022 as guests enjoy the performances provided by our talented line-up.”

Confirmed supporting artists include Steve Grills, Junk Yard Field Trip, Teagan & The Tweeds, Texas King, The Collection and many more to come. There will also be performances by the young musicians who make up Elvio Fernandes’ ROC Star Academy, made up of budding artists aged 11 to 21.

“It’s good to know that with the world as unstable as it is, Rochester and Monroe County can still produce the biggest festival in the world,” Springut said. “Not only is it free, but we do it in the middle of the treasure that is Highland Park.”

Things to do

Organizers claim that the Lilac Festival attracts more than 500,000 daily annual visitors and that these guests will be able to enjoy more than music. This year’s festival activities and attractions include:

The gardens

And if all that wasn’t enough, there are of course the lilacs. Highland Park has the largest collection of lilacs in the United States, with a rare opportunity to experience the beauty and fragrance of over 500 varieties of lilacs on approximately 1,200 plants.

With three festival weekends, chances are there will be a peak of bloom in time for your visit:

Lilacs are the star of the show but don’t sleep on the pansy bed.

With a new walkway surrounding the garden, the hand-planted pansy bed features some 10,000 plants in an oval floral ‘carpet’.

Each year the pansies are positioned to create a special design, making it an annual destination for festival goers.

Even with the cancellation of the pandemic in 2020, the thoughtbed still offered a message of hope – literally:

And we can’t forget to mention Highland Park’s grove of rhododendrons and azaleas. Walking the winding path east through the lilacs, you will find your way to this area with no less than 700 varieties of these plants, alongside mountain laurel, Andromeda, horse chestnut , spring bulbs and wildflowers.

Continue from there and you will find the Pinetum, an arboretum with 300 species and varieties of evergreens from the United States and around the world. There are also Japanese maples, 35 varieties of magnolias, tree peonies, crabapple and flowering dogwoods, a collection of barberry, a rock garden with dwarf conifers and a wide variety of hardwood shade trees. .

But wait, there’s more. Upon entering the park at South Avenue and Reservoir Drive, you will be greeted by the annual bloom of tulips which offer a brilliant kaleidoscope of color:


The Lilac Festival is also bringing back the VIP High Spot Party Deck in 2020 so visitors can enjoy their shows with premium perks. Ticketed guests will enjoy access to the front stage, in-tent and outdoor lounges, a private cash bar complete with wine, beer and spirits, and air-conditioned private restrooms, free chair massages and free snacks.

VIP tickets will soon be available on the Lilac Festival website.

Highland Park Map

Basic rules

The Lilac Festival is free and open to the public, but certain areas of the park have rules and the following rules apply to the festival site in Highland Park:

  • Pets are not allowed
  • Bicycles, skateboards and inline skates are not allowed
  • Guests can bring a small chair, umbrellas or blankets
  • Bandanas are not allowed

There is also a parental escort program from 10.30am to 8.30pm each festival day while:

  • Guests 16 and under are not permitted entry unless accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or responsible adult
  • All guests 16 and under must stay with their chaperone
  • Each chaperone can supervise up to five young people
  • Any guest appearing to be under 17 must be prepared to show valid ID
    • Valid forms of identification include driver’s license, non-driver ID, college ID, passport, or VISA

Car park

Public parking is available by entering at 1440 South Avenue, Rochester NY, 14620. Parking is $5 per car, but parking is free on Fridays before 3 p.m.

Organizers say vehicles parked illegally on the side streets surrounding the festival will be ticketed and/or towed away.

People with disabilities who have a wheelchair hangtag should use Public Parking Lot 2 and enter from South Avenue.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.