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Rochester festivals are back in full swing after two years of restrictions, cancellations

Rochesterians love a good festival.

But the city was lacking such activities during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with many perennial favorites pared down or even cancelled due to the pandemic.

That is not the case anymore. Local festivals have come back in a big way since 2020, many even adding new events and activities after the lull.

Festival organizers are being mindful of safety and are following federal and state guidelines, but some of their concerns have been alleviated with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the ability to celebrate in open, outdoor spaces.

The Hooligans

Pride Festival

One event that is back this year is the annual Pride parade and festival, which returns to Rochester in July after a two-year hiatus.

The parade down Park Avenue takes place July 16, with the ROC Pride Fest taking place at Cobbs Hill Park immediately following.

This year also marks a major milestone: It has been 50 years since the first organized LGBTQ+ Pride events were held in Rochester.

In addition, this will be the first time the Pride parade and festival will be put on by the ROC Pride Collective, a community-based coalition dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride in the Greater Rochester area.

The group includes volunteers from the LGBTQ+ community and representatives from local nonprofits.

It was formed in July of 2021 in response to the community’s desire to see the parade and additional events return after a two-year absence.

Susanna Speed, who co-chairs the ROC Pride Collective with Sam Brett, said the response for the festival’s return this year has been off the charts.

“We are so excited to bring the community back together,” Speed said.

Not only did 2022 mean the return of the Pride festival and parade, having the ROC pride Collective oversee the event also ushered in a new era that organizers believe brought out the best of the community.

“We all came together and worked hard to create an affirming, accessible environment,” Speed said.

In addition to the parade, festival and community picnic, there are activities this year held at popular area venues, including Seabreeze and the Seneca Park Zoo, starting in June.

Pride focuses on innovation and inclusivity, Brett said.

Brett — who has been an integral part of the Pride festival since 1995 — said the event is ultimately about people coming together to support one another and having a great time.

“It’s a place where people can forget about their troubles and celebrate,” he said.

Lilac Festival

One of the focus areas of the 2022 Rochester Lilac Festival is community health and wellness. The event was canceled in 2020 and a scaled down version took place in 2021. It’s back in full force in 2022, with several new activities and events.

Organizers of the 2022 Rochester Lilac Festival worked with local and state officials to determine the event’s final COVID-19 guidelines. This year’s events are spread across three weekends in May, the same format that was instituted in 2021 because of additional safety precautions implemented due to the pandemic.

Among this year’s offerings are a new Health & Wellness Experience presented by Evans Bank, as well as returning event favorites, including the Lilac Parade, Wine Tasting and Craft Beer Expo — all back for the first time since 2019.

The Health & Wellness Experience includes fitness classes sponsored by eight local fitness organizations with classes that cater to a variety of fitness levels.

The festival also features a Health & Wellness Expo with over 40 vendors showcasing products and services from nutrition and wellness, fitness equipment and salon and day spa services to weight loss and personal development.

In addition to new offerings, favorite events and activities were scheduled for this year, including a Kids Zone, live music and the Lilac Run 5K, 10K and Donut Dash, offered as in-person and virtual options.

Roc Holiday Village

The third annual City of Rochester Roc Holiday Village presented by Five Star Bank was held in December 2021 after the event was canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.

Nearly 100,000 people visited Roc Holiday Village in downtown Rochester at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park last year to celebrate. Festivities included free ice skating, an igloo village and visits with Santa.

Roc Holiday Village was launched in 2018 and is owned and produced by Rochester natives Jenna Manetta-Knauf, owner of Bella Events Group; Kelli Marsh, owner of Kelli Marsh Photography; and Sean McCarthy, owner of McCarthy Tents & Events.

The organizers said their goal in 2021 was to create a safe and joyful event for the community. They met their goal, and the event exceeded their expectations with a crowd that was able to safely celebrate the winter season.

A Roc Holiday Village in December 2022 is also in the works.

Jazz Festival  

The CGI Rochester Jazz Festival’s 19th edition was postponed twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic but is back and bigger than ever in 2022.

More than 208,000 people attended the nine-day annual event in 2019.

The multi-dimensional festival has a nine-day run from June 17-25, 2022 and features 325 shows including a record 130 free shows and events with more than 1,750 artists at 20 diverse venues.

During this transition year — and in an effort to provide more spacing for all large shows —  organizers announced that all headliner shows were free and presented on two major outdoor stages: Midtown Stage at Parcel 5 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park.

Organizers were able to use some of the federal funding obtained in the Small Business Administration’s Shuttered Venues Grant program to provide the free headliner shows.

A record of 130-plus free shows take place on seven stages for the 2022 festival.

John Nugent, who produces the festival with Marc Iacona, expressed gratitude to all the festival patrons and sponsors for their support during the two years when the show had to be canceled because of the pandemic.

“It has been an extremely challenging period worldwide for all live event producers” Nugent said. “We are beyond excited to bring the Rochester International Jazz Festival back to all of you as global health restrictions ease.”

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021

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