Kick Off Summer – Ithaca Festival

Ithaca is considered a “thinking” city thanks its renowned educational institutions, but its annual festival, June 3 to 5, is a nod to the community’s other side: quirky, charming, artistic. If you’ve ever witnessed the festival’s kickoff parade, you know what I mean. In addition to the usual suspects – music, floats, clowns on stilts – it also features chainsaw marching bands, kazoo bands, dragons, tutus, bubbles and a ballet of Volvos.

“The Ithaca Festival is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate its creativity, diversity, and vibrancy,” says Ben Greenberg, its executive director. “Ithaca is a wonderfully unique place and the Ithaca Parade perhaps best expresses the city’s warmth and personality.”

Now in its 36 year, the marching will commence at 6:30 p.m. on Friday June 3. If you get there early, you can enter the Festival Mile Run that begins at 5:45, and then join the other 8,000 or so people who watch the parade along North Cayuga Street. With more than 100 units, there’s a lot to see – equal parts social conscience and ridiculous hilarity.

“In the late 1990s, there were only about half the number of parade entries than we have now,” notes Drew Noden, parade organizer. “Much of the growth is due to more and more youth groups who want to participate.”

Make sure to bring along a can of food; donations to the Cans Along the Cayuga food drive will be collected during the parade. The festival is free, but since it’s a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, a $5 donation is encouraged. It’s worth it – you’ll enjoy all sorts of entertainment on multiple stages, a kid’s activity area, a sustainability expo, craft show and delicious festival food at a variety of locations.

Kristian S. Reynolds produces photography and video for industry, travel and tourism throughout the USA. His two coffee-table books, Finger Lakes Panoramas and Wine Tour of the Finger Lakes, continue to be local favorites. Major clients include I Love New York, OSRAM Sylvania, Gutchess International, Stratton Mountain, and Greek Peak Mountain Resort. See more of his work at


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story and photos by Kristian S. Reynolds

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