Finger Lakes Festivals

As the warmer months begin to arrive, the villages and towns of the Finger Lakes Region come alive with festivities. The range of events offers something for everyone – from exploring one’s heritage to living out a fantasy.

One festival reminds me of being young and watching Dorothy’s many on-screen adventures as she travels along the Yellow Brick Road in search for the Wizard, whom she believes can help her return home.

From June 3 through 5, downtown Chittenango, birthplace of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum, will come to life during the 33rd annual Oz-Stravaganza!

Guests will be able to relive the 1939 movie with special guests, who have in the past included Margaret Pellagrini, who portrayed a Flower Pot Munchkin and a Sleepy Head Munchkin, as well as Karl Slover, who portrayed the first Trumpeteer Munchkin. Caren Marsh-Doll, the woman who was Judy Garland’s stand-in, has also attended in past years.

Organizer Colleen Hummell Zimmer said that Caren Marsh-Doll will be serving as the 2011 parade marshall. Zimmer also expects Margaret Pelligrini to be in attendance.

On June 4, at 2 p.m., the Grand Oz Parade will take place downtown along Route 5. This year will also include an Emerald City Idol singing competition, with finals to take place at the Chittenango High School on the evening of June 4. Other highlights will include a Royal Historian of Oz writing contest, a Munchkin Mile Kids Fun Run, Oz Costume Judging and Oz coloring contests, and a Miss Oz-Stravaganza competition.

The festival will also offer amusement rides, a petting zoo, a brunch and a spaghetti dinner with the Munchkins, an Oz program with the Munchkins and guests of Oz, vendors, crafts, and much more. Hot air balloon rides from the Land of Oz will also be offered. Reservations are required; make them by calling Dwight at 315-495-6544.

Information on any of these activities can be found at or You can also e-mail questions to

Stepping back in time
For those interested in what life was like hundreds of years ago, the 17th annual Northeast Primitive Rendezvous, planned for July 23 through 30 in Newark Valley, will bring history to life.

On July 23 and 24, guests will be able to tour the 1794 Bement-Billings Farmstead located on Route 38 to witness the lifestyle of those living during that era. Asa Bement established the Farmstead at the age of 28 when he built a log cabin and planted wheat to prepare for the arrival of his family. Soon, Asa became a partner in a sawmill, and his wife, Abigail, their four girls, his cousin, and a blacksmith apprentice arrived. Bement represents the type of pioneer that characterized the American experience on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

Unlike some museums that will allow the curious to view and study such topics from a distance, this rendezvous allows attendees to actively participate. Besides the 1794 farmhouse, the encampment will illustrate clothing, weapons, tools and the primitive daily life the settlers encountered. Visitors who wish to can try period skills through hands-on activities.

The remaining days of the festival, July 25 through 30, will be left to those (pre-registered) who enjoy clothing, lodges and accoutrements of the period 1640 to 1840. Workshops on horn making, woodworking, black powder weaponry, knife throwing and more will be offered throughout the week. Tours of the farmhouse will be offered daily. Visitors can learn how blacksmiths made simple eating utensils and how fabric was dyed using natural techniques. Guests can also try carding wool, preparing to spin and weave wool and flax, churning butter and preserving natural foods.

Saturday and Sunday, public events will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. The Bement-Billings Farmstead is located one mile north of the village of Newark Valley at 9241 State Route 38. Call Gerald Rhodes at 607-687-2271 for more information.

Celebrating food
Several festivals are planned in and around the Finger Lakes that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. The 44th annual Sauerkraut Festival in Phelps is one. It celebrates the history of the area’s manufacture of sauerkraut.

“We used to have a number of sauerkraut factories in Phelps, as late as the early 1980s,” said organizer Betty Collier, adding, “I used to be able to smell the kraut from my porch. We no longer have any in the village, but there is still the Great Lake Kraut Company in nearby Shortsville.”

According to the Sauerkraut festival’s website, the Sauerkraut Festival began in 1967 with a one-day program, “The Home of Silver Floss Sauerkraut.” It continues today as a three-day festival.

The Phelps Chamber of Commerce started this festival because Phelps was one of the largest producers of sauerkraut in the world. Eventually, a committee made up of members from the community and community organizations took over the various aspects of this festival with the support of the Silver Floss Sauerkraut Company, now the Great Lakes Kraut Company.

This year’s event, planned for August 4 through 6 on the Festival Grounds located on Ontario Street in Phelps, will kick off with an Arts and Crafts show at the Firemen’s Hall, followed by a kiddie parade led by McGruff the police dog. At 6 p.m. the midway rides will open and remain open throughout the festival.

Other activities will include cabbage bowling, a Kraut Idol contest, live music featuring Nashville recording artist Derek Joseph, a 20-k road race, a free decorated cabbage head and judging contest, a parade, a scrapbooking demonstration and much more. The festivities conclude on August 6 with a fireworks display at 10 p.m.

To learn more about the annual Sauerkraut Festival, visit or

For those who like a barbeque flavor, the Big Rib BBQ & Blues Fest is one of Rochester’s most sizzlin’ events. Running July 14 through 17, this will be the 5th annual festival.

Hosted at Highland Park, the festival brings in rib masters and musicians from across the country to participate in this four-day finger-licking good time. The Rib Fest is a family-friendly event that even includes a kids’ zone where children can play while parents enjoy a cold beer and the smooth sounds of some of the nation’s greatest blues musicians.

Hours of this year’s festival are Thursday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entrance fees vary by day; lunchtime admission is free daily. Highland Park is located on Highland Avenue just east of Mount Hope Avenue.

To learn more, visit

Music and celebration
For those who are looking for a blend of everything, the Park Avenue Festival in Rochester is one of the premier summer events. Scheduled for August 6 and 7, the event will be open to guests on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More than 300 artists and 30 entertainers are part of each year’s festival, which runs along a mile-and-a-quarter-long stretch of Park Avenue – boasting an eclectic mix of artistic boutiques, cozy cafés and charming stores. Entrance is free and shuttles are available.

So whether you are looking for food, music or fun, there is sure to be a festival within the region that will suit your taste.

More area festivals
May 13-22 – Lilac Festival, Highland Park, Rochester (

June 2-5 – Ithaca Festival (

June 3-4 – Sulpher Springs Festival in Clifton Springs (

June 4 – Canandaigua Wine Walk (

July 8-10 – New York State Rhythm and Blues Festival, Clinton Square in Syracuse (

July 15-17 – Finger Lakes Wine Festival, Watkins Glen International (

June 17-18 – Strawberry Festival and Block Party, Owego (

June 17-18 – Waterfront Festival, Seneca Harbor Park, Watkins Glen (

July 17-24 – Canal Fest, North Tonawanda (

July 21-24 – Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance, Trumansburg Fairgrounds (

July 29-30 – Hickory Smoked Music Festival at Hickories Park in Owego (

July 29-30 – Art in the Park, downtown Owego (

July 30-31 – 38th Annual Waterfront Art Festival, Kershaw Park in Canandaigua (

August 25-28 – Pickin’ in the Pature Bluegrass Festival, 2515 Covert Road, Lodi (

August 25-Sept. 5 – New York State Fair, Empire Expo Center in Syracuse (

by Wendy Post

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