I was SO excited to be a part of the Lilac Festival Parade this year!
Rochester, NY was originally known as the flOUR city based upon the numerous flour mills along the Genesee River in what is now known as downtown Rochester. This nickname has been transformed and renamed the flOWER city for the magnificent 10 day world renown celebration known as the Lilac Festival. The Lilac Festival kicks off summer in Rochester and expands even beyond the impressive 500 variety/1200 bushes of lilacs. No really, there are a TON of gorgeous lilacs. The second you step foot outside your car at Highland park you are overwhelmed with the beautiful smell of these flowers! Despite this phenomenal main attraction the festival is so much more! The Lilac Festival has free entertainment on the main stage of national recording artists, children's entertainment, arts and craft vendors, exhibitors, and so much more! The Lilac Festival is undeniable one of the greatest pride and joys of our city!
The Lilac Festival has a very special place in my heart. In 2004 I was a junior in high school just starting to look at colleges. I knew I had my heart set on the very prestigious-and very expensive!-Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. My parents made it clear that I needed scholarships for NYU to be a possibility. I remember finding this tiny little ad in the Democrat and Chronicle advertising a scholarship competition run by the Lilac Festival. I submitted the essays and transcripts and was thrilled to be called as a semifinalist for an interview. I went, met with the judges, answered all their questions, and was called later that evening to be told I was a finalist and needed to bring an evening gown with me that Saturday night. Evening gown? Hmmm...maybe it's a formal gala or banquet? Nope! Pageant! I showed up and was taught how to walk down the run way and turn all the right ways. The other girls all knew each other and had been competing since they were little. I remember at the time of the crowning I was so disappointed not to be called as a runner up, one of the Lilacettes, only to have my disappointment be transformed into pure shock when my name was called as the 2004 Lilac Festival Queen; the first Queen since 1987. That's correct, I entered and won my first pageant by accident. I can still hear my mom's shriek from the audience haha
My year as the 2004 Lilac Festival Queen was absolutely amazing. I worked as an ambassador for the Lilac Festival and for the Greater Rochester area (foreshadowing anyone?). One of the reporters I worked closely with was Melanie Barnas-Simmons, who at the time was the president of the Miss Greater Rochester Organization. Over the next couple years, well past my year as the Lilac Festival Queen, Melanie continuously tried to convince me to compete for the Miss Greater Rochester title. I finally decided to compete in 2007 and was surprised and honored to be named 1st RU. You know where this story is going by now....
As bold of a statement as this might be, there is no doubt that the Lilac Festival changed my life and helped me to grow into the confident, articulate, well rounded, and socially conscious woman I am today. I was SO happy to return to the festival again this year and ride in the parade as Miss Greater Rochester. It was a wonderful feeling walking around the festival and seeing my Lilac Festival Family, particularly Jill Morgan, Mr. & Mrs. Jim LeBeau, and "Uncle" Phil! These people are true representatives of what Rochester and the Lilac Festival is all about-genuinely good, kind, and hard working individuals all of whom I am tremendously grateful for their continued friendship and support!
Here are a couple pictures of the parade:
Your eyes aren't fooling you if you think that car looks tiny! I actually had the opportunity to ride in a Smart Car, a fuel efficient, green, and new "it" car of today! Special thanks to the Mercedes-Benz of Buffalo (one of the exhibitors at the Lilac Festival) for lending me this car and driver Wes for the parade!
Have you stopped by the festival yet? There's still time! The Lilac Festival 2010 runs until Sunday May 23rd! Stop by Highland Park today!