5/11/20, Highland Park. David Kramer [Photo: passerby who works nearby and and enjoys walking through the festival; other photos by David Kramer. Note mask along with umbrella.]
No Lilac Festival will be held this spring. We’ll see no signs under sparkling skies directing locals and tourists towards Rochester’s celebration of itself as the Flower City.
Today, on this gloomy and record breaking chilly day — no snow was the only consolation — I walked the empty bowl where the bandstand should be rocking and food trucks feeding the dancing masses.
As seen below today’s pictures, we’ve visited the festival several times in 2016 and 2017. Hopefully, this look at Lilac Festivals past will be a one time event.
In Living Lilac. On the Road, at 9:06 in morning Carl Gaedt sets the stage and Chris Beyer mixes Sarah Mclachlan’s Surfacing (1997) when the Lilac Festival comes to life after another evening of partying under the stars.
We met the vendors — Rick, Dan, Maria, Lazarus, Joe and Livia — who live for the duration of the festival in the encampment traveling, while around the northeast selling food and entertainment at festivals like ours.
We danced with Eileen and SkyCoasters Eileen, hung out with Scott Virkus and interviewed by Amy Hudak News 8.In A modest proposal for the Festival’s troubles. Bring back the Lilac Queen. And add a King, we searched in vain for the festival’s missing monarch. We also suggested the festival re-instate the monarchy to help curb festival mayhem.
In Talker gets some lilac love from the Democrat and Chronicle, our proposal received attention from a local newspaper. With a new controversial festival rule that children 16 and under must have parental supervision, our non-coercive idea makes even more sense.
Because I had biked to the Lilac Festival to see the vendors on the way to see Geva’s “May Queen”, I met Monica Majcher who was taking a picture of her bike alongside blooming Lilacs. An artist in several mediums, Monica, just returned from a 9 month trek across the U.S. — including Burning Man — just in time for the Lilac Festival.At the bike rack, I met Monica’s friend Dave Dowd, a teacher at French Road Elementary School in Brighton handing out flyers for a new group: Bike Writers. The journey ended in the now-filled abandoned subway entrance on South Avenue.
As seen in Charlotte Lahr (1970 – 2017), the 2017 festival was tinged with sadness. Tragically, in March, Charlotte Lahr was murdered in her wine and liquor store across from the park. In the year she ran the store, Char was a beaming presence right across from the festival, always generous with her white wine samplings for thirsty festival goers. One year, Char and I were going to nominate Mr. Lilac Festivals. The candidates were to preen outside the store, while customers could vote for the kingliest.
At the parade and over the course of the festival, tens of thousands will meander through Highland Park. Much of the park is well-trod territory. tourists and Rochesterians know of sites like the Sunken Gardens, the Conservatory and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
As seen in The Guardian, the Crime Victims Memorial and other tucked away gems in Highland Park, what many miss are some tucked away pleasures in the area below the Vietnam Memorial and in the wooded copse next to the former Cornell Cooperative Extension, as now the Monroe County Park’s Lilac Adventure Zone.
One of the more colorful tucked away gems is a wooden bench on a trail behind the Lilac Adventure Zone and near The Guardian and the Crime Victims Memorial.
During the festival, the bench is a favorite spot for workers who like to escape the festival hubbub for a quiet smoke or vape.
Over the decades, based on debris and paraphernalia occasionally scattered about, the bench appears to be a place of earthly pleasures: legal, quasi-legal and perhaps illegal. Evidence suggests the horizontal bench has been the site of amore of various permutations. As testament to their spiritual and earthly devotion, two smitten lovers, AK and MR, carved their initials inside a heart.
Unfortunately, last winter the rotting bench finally buckled and splintered, perhaps by a heavy snow or strong icing. I reported the broken bench to the Monroe County Parks Department; no repairs have been undertaken.
Perhaps the breaking of the wood planks, along with the current norms of social and personal distancing, have rendered the bench a less desirable destination for lovers and stoners or both.
Located on the Highland Drive side of the park, another under recognized site is the Worker’s Rights Memorial: a pillar with embedded plaques and permanent marker inscribed with a quote from Mother Jones: Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.
As seen in Mourning for the dead and fighting for the living in Highland Park, during the 2017 festival, asked people for their impressions of the the pillar, plaques and or the marker. Of about or dozen or so respondents, only one had previously seen the monument.