Beyond Your Years with Luis Martinez

Refresh and Relax at Festivals

Rochester, NY, is known for its many festivals. As soon as the weather shows signs of warmth, our denizens don their tank tops, cargo shorts, and flip flops and head for the nearest festival. I’ve lived in many other places and I smile at the enthusiasm, excitement, and impatience for warmth that Rochesterians exhibit at the first sunny day above 40F. We just can’t wait to get outside, and with that – come the festivals.

Our region boasts a long list of festivals. In fact, there is barely a weekend without one. The list is long, and the themes are many. Do you enjoy flowers? How about culture? Do you want to go for a run (with 10,000 of your neighbors?) Do you relish food – from trucks?  Is Jazz your favorite music genre? No? Then how about rock? Or do you prefer art? Or acrobats? There are so many options and all within a short drive.

Smelling the lilacs

It’s fair to say that in the Rochester region it all begins with The Lilac Festival. Rochester has the world’s largest concentration of lilacs, and it all happened last week! The weather this year was exceptional – I hope you took advantage and enjoyed the long 10-day festival. Another tradition born in recent years is the Food Truck Rodeo. From macaroni to sausage sandwiches and caramel popcorn to craft beer, there’s a truck full of food waiting for you in May at the Public Market. Don’t forget the gyros at the Rochester Greek Festival on June 1-4. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, here’s small town America, Fairport Canal Days, on June 2-4.

On a plane to Florida in March, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me who is a professional jazz drummer. He had been at the Eastman School of Music for a seminar and he shared with me how much he loves the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. I was actually surprised, so I said: “Wait, you live in Boston, so you have the Newport Jazz Fest and New York City with Jazz at Lincoln Center and…” He cut me off to say, “They don’t stand up to the Rochester Jazz Fest. It’s the best. Really,” said the man who does Jazz for a living. Wow. I’m glad I’ve attended 13 out of the 15 years since it began!

If it’s art that fascinates you, then join 150,000 art lovers at this year’s Corn Hill Arts Festival, July 8-11.  Those who create and sell their designs at Corn Hill are there by invitation and admission only; that’s why the quality is superior. Another art favorite is the Memorial Art Gallery Clothesline Art Festival in September. Then there’s the JCC Rochester Jewish Film Festival, or accompany your adult children to Rochester Bands on the Bricks, or watch the death defying aerialists at the Rochester Fringe Festival.

One tradition that I’ve participated in since the mid 1990’s is the J. P Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. This is a ‘race’ where about 10,000 runners and walkers representing their companies and not for profit organizations run 3.5 miles as a fundraiser for a local charity. I love the vibe and spirit of this event, how literally 10,000 people show up for a cause and run their hearts out. I can’t wait to run this year on July 11.

There’s so much going on in our region! Get some comfortable clothes, some food and drink, and fest away!

Luis Martinez is a guest blogger for St. John’s. He is an active senior that likes to observe and write about how people work at their careers, guide their businesses, strengthen their families, stay physically fit and mentally sharp, and race their sports cars. Luis habla español. Follow Luis on Twitter @BeyondYourYears, or email

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