Highland Park Lilac Festival
Rochester, New York
In 1892, horticulturist John Dunbar planted a number of lilac bushes in Rochester’s Highland Park. Today, the park’s lilac collection has grown to become one of the largest in the United States, with more than 500 varieties of lilacs on 1,200 bushes throughout the 155-acre park.
To celebrate the beautiful blooming lilacs, the city holds the Highland Park Lilac Festival for 10 days each year in mid-May. Taking place this year May 10-19, the celebration includes nightly live entertainment by national recording artists as well as days full of parades, markets, craft shows and other events.
Dozens of marching bands, decorated floats, clowns, dancers and other characters take part in the Lilac Parade. The festival’s arts-and-crafts show features the work of local and national artists. As part of the proceedings, festival organizers also offer a variety of interesting lilac items for sale that make distinctive souvenirs for travelers. Visitors can sample lilac perfume and lilac wine, as well as other lilac-scented items such as candles, soaps and lotions.
Of course, the best part of the festival may be the chance to wander around this Frederick Law Olmstead-designed park and take in the sights and smells of the lilacs, which bloom in an array of colors from deep purple to pure white.
— www.lilacfestival.com —
Orange City Tulip Festival
Orange City, Iowa
More than 100,000 people stream into Orange City, Iowa, population 6,000, for the Orange City Tulip Festival, which takes place this year May 16 - 18. Although it is named for the tulip, this affair has as much to do with the area’s international heritage as it does with flowers.
“This is going to be our 73rd festival,” said coordinator Rachel Meekma. “We try and emphasize both our Dutch heritage and the tulips. We try to build the festival around our heritage and incorporate the tulip as a big part of that.”
The festival comprises a number of events that start early each morning and culminate with a nightly performance of a classic Broadway musical. Visitors will see various troupes of Dutch singers and dancers performing traditional numbers around town. A fashion show highlights some of the authentic Dutch clothes worn by members of the community.
A parade takes place twice daily throughout the festival. In addition to the performers and dignitaries who take part in the procession, part of the spectacle is the pre-parade street washing.
“Before the parade, people get into traditional Dutch costumes and scrub the streets with water and brooms,” Meekma said. “Traditionally, this was done for the queen and her court before they begin walking down the street.”
Visitors who come for the festival can enjoy horse-drawn trolley tours that give an overview of Orange City’s historic downtown and the area’s Dutch heritage. Participants will also see thousands of tulips blooming all around town, from downtown parks and public buildings to local colleges, businesses and private homes.
— www.octulipfestival.com —
Next: Nantucket Daffodil Festival
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