CITY Newspaper's 2019 Festival Preview Guide 

We all know that person. You know, that guy. I'm talking about the person who insists (enter ridiculous voice) "there's nothing to do in Rochester." This individual is missing out on a world of adventure and events in our city, plus the surrounding counties. My friends, don't be this person. Here's your map, your guide, your BFF for festival fun throughout the spring, summer, and even into the fall. By the end, you may even say there's "too much to do in Rochester."


Rochester Lilac Festival
Friday, May 10 through Sunday, May 19

I've long believed that CITY should deliver a scratch-n-sniff edition, and the Lilac Festival preview is a leading reason for why this needs to happen. The gown of lilacs worn by Highland Park this time of year is no doubt breathtaking, but don't sleep on that scent. It's the glorious smell of late spring and early summer in Rochester, and not many things can top it (the aroma coming from a bouquet of food trucks is a close second). The live music lineup includes Rochester superhero Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People (performing May 13), Julian Marley (the son of Bob, playing May 14), and tribute acts to Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Led Zeppelin, and the Zac Brown Band.

Rochester Dachshund Parade
Saturday, May 11

Can I preview the 18th Rochester Dachshund Parade without using dog puns? No promises, but I'll give it a shot. The parade is a gathering of dachshunds, and dog lovers in Washington Square Park. While the event is a celebration of the breed, it's also a chance to support organizations dedicated to the relief of animal suffering. In short, it's ... pawesome.

96.5 WCMF's Roc City Rib Fest
Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26

In last year's guide, I determined your blood will be 80-percent barbecue by the end of this fest. I'm here to admit I was incorrect. The truth: You're going to be all barbecue in the end, like the liquid Terminator in "Judgement Day," just with sauce. Rib Fest will once again be held at The Barnard Fireman's Field in Greece. Bring your appetite.

Geneva Music Festival
Friday, May 24 through Sunday, June 16

This year's theme is "Women in Music: Key Players." At least half of the festival's programming will represent women's contributions to music through featured composers, performers, or multimedia. Concerts take place across the Finger Lakes region, including Geneva, Skaneateles, Canandaigua, and Auburn. Playing along on the air cello is acceptable.

Thursday, May 23 through Sunday May 26

You could say this is going to be a "kick-glass" weekend at the Corning Museum of Glass (that sentence may have immediately banned me). But seriously, this is a can't-miss fest south of Rochester. There's live glassmaking, music, shopping, food, and drinks are on tap.

Annunciation Rochester Greek Festival
Thursday, May 30 through Sunday, June 2

"Opa!" It's an expression you'll hear plenty of during East Avenue's Greek Festival. If there are any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reading this, I can tell you it's basically the Greek equivalent of "cowabunga!" The festival includes spanakopita, dancing, drinks, kids' activities, gyros, and people mispronouncing the word "gyro." The Greek Orthodox Church, at 962 East Avenue, is your location.

Sulphur Springs Festival
Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1

Festival favorites including a parade, live music, games, and food are here for this Ontario County village celebration at Clifton Springs' John Brown Memorial Park. Bonus: There is also a beer and wine stroll on May 31 (by far the best kind of stroll).

Fairport Canal Days
Friday, May 31 through Sunday, June 2

"The Erie Canal Song" sadly doesn't mention rubber ducks, but these bright yellow bathtub companions are a fun component to Fairport's Canal Days. The annual duck race raises money for charity by racing rubber ducks down the canal, and is the one time of year you won't mind your phone's "ducking" autocorrect. The festival also features food, live music, and more.

19th Ward Square Fair
Saturday, June 1

Celebrate the beginning of June with this fun-filled 19th Ward party. Square Fair pancakes, a parade, games, local vendors, and live music are all part of the fair, which takes place in Aberdeen Square, at 330 Post Avenue.

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The Fast & the Furriest
Saturday, June 1

I adopted my rambunctious, cuddly cat, The Great Catsby, from Verona Street, so events like The Fast & the Furriest have a special place in my heart. Proceeds for this race and festival help reunite lost pets with their owners, create incentives for adopting shelter pets, and support pet retention. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Rochester Animal Services,184 Verona Street.

Rochester Cocktail Revival
Monday, June 3 through Sunday, June 9

Shake up your summer with a week of cocktails. The sixth edition of RCR will host more than 60 events at 20 different Rochester bars. This year's celebration moves beyond the booze and focuses on the local arts community as well, which will be highlighted through theatre, music, and visual art collaborations.

Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival
Tuesday, June 4 through Sunday, June 9

The dazzling beauty of the Finger Lakes inspires some pretty fantastic art. Over 40 artists from across North America gather in Canandaigua to capture this majestic scenery in their creative work. The festival also includes events June 9 and 10 at Sonnenberg Gardens, at 151 Charlotte Street in Canandaigua.

Maplewood Rose Festival
Saturday, June 8

Heritage and horticulture meet at the Maplewood Rose Garden, located at Maplewood Drive and Seneca Parkway. Hundreds of roses, along with good times, will be in bloom.

Rochester Real Beer Expo
Saturday, June 8

With suds in the South Wedge, this is a date to save for beer fans. The dankest drinks — about 120 craft brews, to be exact — will be showcased during this Rochester Real Beer week highlight. The lineup hasn't been announced at this point, but you should know that I'll be there, beer chalice in hand, with the imaginary title of Rochester Beer Czar.

Friends of Frederick Douglass
Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9

In continuing celebration of the revered abolitionist and Rochesterian Frederick Douglass, the Friends of Frederick Douglass host an homage motorcade on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., beginning at 42 Favor Street and ending at Frederick Douglass Family Gravesite in Mt. Hope Cemetery. On Sunday, a wreath laying ceremony takes place at the Frederick Douglass Memorial Square and Monument, 1208 South Avenue. Friends of Frederick Douglass can be reached at (847) 436-1982 and (224) 381-7540.

Keuka Arts Festival
Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9

Family fun rules the weekend during this Finger Lakes bash. Festivities will take place along the Keuka Lake Outlet Trail, only a few blocks from downtown Penn Yan. Food, blues, jazz, and art are all on the menu.

Dances at MuCCC
Tuesday, June 11 through Saturday, June 22

This ode to dance features 10 contemporary performances by more than 20 different choreographers and companies. Highlights include work by Hanlon Dance, James Hansen, Daystar/Rosalie Jones, plus "Up and Becoming," an evening of work by young artists. Dancing shoes not required. MuCCC is located at 142 Atlantic Avenue.

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Rochester Deaf Festival
Saturday, June 15

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the fest, which features vendors and exhibitors, children's programs, food trucks, and more. The location is Genesee Valley Park, 1000 East River Road.

Finger Lakes Chamber Music Festival
Saturday, June 15 through Saturday, July 27

A summer of world-class chamber music is here. Performances will be at venues throughout the Finger Lakes. The instrumentation for each concert will include various combinations of violin, viola, cello, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon, guitar, flute, and piano, along with members of the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra and invited soloists.

CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival
Friday, June 21 through Saturday, June 29

You know you're a big deal when your festival inspires Rochester to change the name of a street. Gibbs Street is annually transformed into Jazz Street for the fest. There's plenty to love with the headliners, including the Steve Miller Band (June 28), Patti LaBelle (June 22), Steve Gadd Band (June 21), and the one and only Jeff Goldblum (with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra on June 26). But also, don't sleep on the rest of the slate. There's nothing like weaving around the crowds and food trucks on East Avenue, and then stumbling upon a new favorite band.

Macedonian Festival
Friday, June 21 through Sunday, June 23

St. Dimitria Macedonian Orthodox Church's annual celebration of Macedonian culture and heritage also features music, dancing, and more. Toronto's Grupa Rumba returns this year, as does fan-favorite dance group Ensemble Makedonka. The spot: 235 Telephone Road in West Henrietta. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Sterling Renaissance Festival
Saturday and Sundays, July 6 through August 18

Don't panic, but this one involves time travel. You'll be jettisoned out of 2019, and plunked down in 1585. The villagers will be baffled by the witchcraft of the device you refer to as a "phone." This recreation of Renaissance culture includes themed weekends, jousting, turkey legs (for eating, not jousting), Queen's tea, and more. The realm is located at 15385 Farden Road in Sterling.

Rochester Jewish Film Festival
Sunday, July 7 through Sunday, July 14

Don't forget about the film fests during festival season. The Rochester International Jewish Film Festival will continue its mission of screening quality contemporary films telling the stories of Jewish people from around the world. Stay tuned for schedule information.

Finger Lakes Wine Festival
Friday, July 12 through Sunday, July 14

Don't be shocked, this celebration is all about WINE (the caps lock is needed here). The fest features over 80 wineries, along with regional artisans, music, classes, and more. The wine weekend is happening at Watkins Glen International Speedway, 2790 County Route 16).

Corn Hill Arts Festival
Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14

More than 325 artists will gather on nine historical Corn Hill neighborhood streets during the 51st edition of this Rochester summer staple. Music, food, drinks, and plenty of arts and crafts will be on display.

ROC Pride Week
Saturday, July 13 through Sunday, July 21

This year's theme is "What is your Stonewall?" It's a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, which sparked the modern LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Movement. This week also includes one of the grandest parades of the summer: the ROC Pride Parade on Saturday, July 20.

Canandaigua Art and Music Festival
Friday, July 19 through Sunday, July 21

Music, art, and food combine for a festive, fun weekend in Canandaigua. The celebration centers around 115 South Main Street in Canandaigua.

Canandaigua Lake Music Festival
Friday, July 19 through Sunday, July 28

The 15th edition of this party of classical chamber music and Canandaigua features a week of concerts and education about this beloved form of music.

Rochester Burger Week
Friday, July 19 through Friday, July 26

Burgers on burgers on burgers. This will be a good week, my friends.

ROC The Taste
Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27

While you're ROC-ing this Festival Guide, you can mark your calendars for this food and music party in and around downtown Rochester's Parcel 5.

Indigenous Music & Arts Festival
Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28

Formerly the Native American Dance and Music Festival, this is a celebration of traditional and contemporary music of the Americas. The festival also includes a Native American Arts Market, storytelling, and a family discovery tent.

Canandaigua Lakefront Art Show
Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28

The 46th iteration of this celebration takes place at Kershaw Park, Lakeshore Drive in Canandaigua. A trio of fine art, music, and food greet you like old friends near majestic Canandaigua Lake. Admission is free.

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Spencerport Canal Days
Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28

Things that rule: a classy carriage ride along Spencerport's scenic streets, arts and crafts vendors, food, entertainment, and wine. Spencerport Canal Days has all of the above. Super bonus: More than 200 cars will be on display at the American Legion on Trimmer Road. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day; free admission.

Waterfront Art Festival
Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28

For a fourth year in a row, Webster's North Ponds Park will host this waterfront party (after more than four decades in Canandaigua). The festival will include hundreds of artists, live music, beer, wine, and cider. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.

Skaneateles Festival
Thursday, August 1 through Saturday, August 24

Skaneateles Festival is the quintessential summer music celebration. This upstate gem brings phenomenal musicians to the finger Lakes region each August, and the 2019 season is no different: The Aizuri Quartet (August 1 and 2), banjo players Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (August 3), violinist Hilary Hahn (August 8 and 10), trumpeter Wynton  Marsalis (August 17), and many more will play the fest this year. If you love chamber music, both classic and  new, you owe it to yourself to make it to Skaneateles.

St. Stanislaus Polish Arts Festival

Friday, August 2 and Saturday, August 3

As of press time, there are few details on this celebration of all things Polish, but we don't really need to know much to know this one will be a blast. The festivities honoring all the Polish awesomeness will take place at the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1150 Hudson Avenue, running from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Lima Crossroads Blues Festival
Friday, August 2 through Sunday, August 4

Livingston County has top-notch celebrations, too. This year's brilliant, bluesy lineup at Lima Crossroads includes the Heather Gillis Band, Steve Grills and The Roadmasters, Growlers Blues Band, Poison Whiskey (the name of the band, not the weapon of choice of a Southern Bond villain) and more.

Park Avenue Summer Art Festival
Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4

We're on to August, which means Park Ave. season. More than 350 artists, exhibitors, and craftspeople will set up shop along the city street. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, on Park Avenue between Alexander Street and Culver Road. Admission is free.

Gateways Music Festival
Tuesday, August 6 through Sunday, August 11

Get classical. This event features African-American classical musicians and composers participating in 50 performances. The concerts are in association with the Eastman School of Music.

Pageant of Steam
Wednesday, August 7 through Saturday, August 10

This showcase of antique vehicles powered by steam also features tractor pulls, sawmill demonstrations, a chainsaw carvings auction, food, and more. Basically, this is the opposite of Park Ave. Fest. The Pageant of Steam runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, at 3349 Gehan Road in Canandaigua.

Avon Rotary Corn Festival
Saturday, August 10

What's the top food of summer? There are plenty of options: watermelon, hot dogs, beer, popsicles, and corn, of course. If you agree with that last one, you've come to the right place. This is the area's only festival with a corn-eating contest. Do I really need to write more? (The editors say yes). There will also be arts, crafts, live entertainment, and games. Free of charge, the festival is located on Genesee Street in the Village of Avon.

Brockport Arts Festival
Saturday, August 10 and Sunday, August 11

This free festival just feels like summer. The arts and the outdoors go hand in hand here, with a whole slate of artists and artisans present to sell their wares. There's plenty to enjoy here, with live music, food — including a wine garden and farmers' market — and a vintage car cruise-in.

NOT(A) Festival
Sunday, August 11

This bash throughout multiple locations in the Neighborhood of the Arts is, as the title clearly states, not a festival. It's a party. Including it in something titled "festival guide" definitely classifies as rebel behavior. Three Heads Brewing is teaming up with the Rochester Neighborhood of the Arts Business Association (NOTABA) for this celebration of the creative and fun city neighborhood.

Flower City Brewers Fest
Friday, August 16

Cheers! The brew fest in the Rochester Public Market, 280 North Union Street, brings together top-notch beers from New York State breweries, food, and music. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Rochester Ukrainian Festival
August (Dates TBA)

Celebrate Ukrainian culture, arts, food and culture at St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Church, 940 Ridge Road East. Traditional Ukrainian folk dancers and musicians will also be on hand.

Puerto Rican Festival
Friday, August 16 through Sunday, August 18

Now in its 50th anniversary year, Monroe County's longest-running cultural celebration is still going strong. The three-day festival is a vibrant homage to the legacy of  of Puerto Rican culture. The festivities will include live music, food, and arts events.

Arts at the Gardens

Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18

Work from more than 100 artists, plus a wine and beer garden, live music, and food, along with a sculpture garden, await festival-goers at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park Located at 151 Charlotte Street in Canandaigua, Arts at the Gardens runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Highland Greek Fest
Thursday, August 22 through Sunday, August 25

One Greek festival is nice, but two is perfect. More amazing Greek food, dancing, and "Opa!" shouts are always welcome. The festival takes place at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit, 835 South Avenue, in the South Wedge.

Rochester Summer Soul Music Festival
Friday, August 23 and Saturday, August 24

Frontier Field is the scene for lovers of soul music and good times. Bonus: This year's festival includes a block party outside the ballpark.

New York State Festival of Balloons
Thursday, August 29 through Monday, September 2

The closest we'll ever get to a real-life version of the movie"Up," this balloon fest in Dansville is as majestic as it gets. The plan includes six scheduled balloon launches, an international food court, kids' rides, and unfortunately, zero talking dogs.

Turtle Hill Folk Festival
Friday, September 6 through Sunday, September 8

Prediction: Folk fans will come out of their shell during this Rush fest. Acts include Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Debra Cowen, plus Richie and Rosie. Located at the Rotary Sunshine Campus, 809 Five Points Road, in Rush.

Clothesline Arts Festival
Saturday, September 7 and Sunday, September 8

Art attack: Clothesline features more than 375 artists outside the beautiful Memorial Art Gallery. No word if the MAG's resident unicorn, Miss Glittersparkles Rainbow, will be on-hand for the fest. Find out, 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., both days. Admission is $5 ($4 for MAG members); free for children 10 and under if accompanied by an adult.

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Rochester Fringe Festival
Wednesday, September 10 through Saturday, September 21

Fringe Festival has a fun origin story: It begins in 1947, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Eight theatre groups rebelled by crashing the newly established Edinburgh International Festival. They weren't invited and certainly weren't welcomed, but performed anyway on "the fringe " of the festival. The fringe concept didn't go away — over 200 cities worldwide celebrate a Fringe Festival, including Rochester. We're getting bonus Fringe this year as the celebration of creativity expands to 12 days.

Rochester Garlic Festival
Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15

I just shoved several gloves of garlic in my mouth to properly write this. Needless to say, this is for lovers of garlic, arts, crafts, and entertainment. The festival is at 1350 Chiyoda Drive in Webster.

Festival of Food
Monday, September 16

They had us at food. Foodlink's annual fundraiser features tastings from more than 100 local restaurants, wineries, and breweries. All proceeds benefit Foodlink. This festival is at Rochester Public Market, 280 North Union Street, and runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In This Guide...

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  • Veteran hot air balloon pilot Sean Quigley clears the air

    I've always had this romantic notion about hot air balloon rides — of rising to great heights and taking in spectacular views — which is sadly at odds with my uneasiness about said heights.

  • Celebrating Caribbean culture

    Rochester's Carifest reaches 35th year
    It is barely spring, and I already cannot wait for the end of summer.

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