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Photo of two women wearing dresses in front of lilacs
In front of lilacs, Christina Blackwell (left), 1930 Lilac Queen, with an unknown woman, Highland Park, 1930

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Rochester, New York's Lilac Festival
A Local Legacy

The Netherlands is known for its tulips. Rochester, New York, is known for another type of flower - the lilac.

There are more than 500 varieties of lilacs and more than 1,200 lilac bushes at Highland Park. In 1888, the world's largest nursery, Ellwanger & Barry, owned by George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry, gave Highland Park to the people of Rochester. It was beautifully landscaped with trees and shrubs and was the first municipal arboretum in the United States. An arboretum is a place where trees, shrubs, and plants are specially grown and cultivated. The park's collection of lilacs originally started with 20 varieties in 1892. Since 1898, Rochester has held a Lilac Festival every May. The first event attracted 3,000 visitors; now more than 500,000 people come to see the lilacs and other flowering trees and shrubs.

Lilacs are shrubs and small trees that flower in the spring and early summer. They have large oval clusters of small blossoms and deep green leaves. The blossoms are fragrant and can be lavender, deep purple, white, or pink. Lilacs are originally from Eastern Europe and Asia and were brought to North America by early European settlers. Some of the first lilacs planted at Highland Park are descendants of the flowers from the Balkan Mountains in Eastern Europe.

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