The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is one of the most popular annual events on this unique Michigan island vacation destination.
Drawing visitors in droves from around the country and even the world to Lake Huron in the Great Lakes of the United States, this special event takes full advantage of the charm and appeal of this truly one of a kind location through events, decor and celebrations that span over the course of ten days in the month of June every year.
The lush, purple blooms that are so iconic of the island that you will find the imagery everywhere, especially as the festival draws near. Due to the widespread popularity of the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, planning a trip to the area during this time period will require a lot of advance planning and booking in order to take full advantage of this charming event.
Mackinac Island Lilac Festival
The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival has been held on the island annually since 1949, started by a number of year round residents of the island.
Mackinac Island has the most ideal climate for growing lilacs, which became a popular pastime around the country in the Victorian era. During the planting craze, it was discovered that this blooming shrubs flourished in the cool, moist conditions of the island and many of those original plantings still survive to this day!
In fact, you will find some specimens in and around the city that are over 150 years old. Making this a top Mackinac Island bucket list item.
The climate of Mackinac Island is very temperate and mild, with an average year round temperature of around 42 degrees and over 30 inches of rain falling annually. This cool and moist climate, with an average of almost 170 days of precipitation every year, results in lilacs that grow for much longer and to sizes that are far larger than in other locations around the country.
The average blooming period lasts for around three weeks, usually during the middle to end of June. Some varieties of lilacs bloom earlier or later, resulting in around a month during which the delicate floral aroma fills the streets of this charming city.
While visiting the area during the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, you will find the imagery and scent used everywhere as a testament to the celebration. Poster competitions and children’s art exhibits create art for the festival and professional contemporary artists fill exhibition spaces with themed art that compliments the bright white and soft purple flower clusters.
Gift shops and boutiques also take advantage of the spring aesthetic, featuring accessories, jewelry, clothing and decor that displays the iconic flower of this island location. Also be sure to purchase some of the perfume, bath products and candles that you will find everywhere you go so that you can take the scents of the festival home with you to enjoy throughout the year as a souvenir from your visit to this Great Lake island vacation destination.
To take full advantage of the peak blooming period, the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is scheduled for the ten day period between the second Friday of the month of June until the third Sunday of the month of June.
During the festival, a number of themed events and special tours take place to celebrate the flower that is so synonymous with the island. Poster contests are always one of the most popular events and the unveiling of the poster that corresponds with that year’s festival takes place at the beginning of the event.
Special events take place throughout the entire ten day period of the festival, as well as a number of activities and regularly scheduled excursions in and around the city. Special tours of the major attractions can be found everywhere you go, as well as hikes, musical performances, exhibitions and family friendly activities.
Throughout the whole of the event, families will be able to take advantage of the free park, filled with bounce houses, climbing walls and other fun children’s activities. Specialists, historians, horticulturists and photographers all run special events and lectures as well as educational seminars on topics ranging from the history of the island to the care of lilac bushes.
Daily kite flying events fill the skies with colorful kites and musicians perform all around the city, from dancing in the streets to live music at dinner. You can even find meditative musical events in which everyone comes together to relax and free their minds as one.
The art museum hosts events for children to experience and create art of their own, accentuated by the collection of art at the museum and exhibition of contemporary artists throughout the town. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the festival is to simply stroll the charming streets of this one of kind city and take in all the sights (and smells) of the blooming lilacs.
Another well loved aspect of the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is the Dog and Pony Show, which features a parade of different dogs and small ponies all dressed up in costumes, to the delight of young and old alike.
You will also find plenty of concerts, musical performances and events running throughout every day of the event. Sailing cruises around the island are a popular pastime whenever you visit the island, but during the period of the festival, these sailing cruises sometimes become more themed and unique, allowing visitors to see the beautiful shoreline and flower filled city from on the water.
The coronation of the Lilac Queen and her Court is another one of the popular events that marks the beginning of the festival. The contestants are selected from the local public high school and the Queen’s duties are taken very seriously throughout not only the festival but the whole year leading up to the following years festival.
From welcoming patrons to the celebratory dinners and riding in the float during the parade, as well as making public appearances at events throughout the year, the Lilac Queen often becomes a well-known and well-loved fixture for the year of her reign.
The conclusion of the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is the Grand Parade. Because of the islands unique ban on automotive vehicles, the parade consists almost entirely of floats pulled by large, magnificent draft horses in all their parade finery.
Each year, the parade is given a specific theme for all the floats and a panel of judges will judge each and every float before naming a winner at the end of the parade. The contestants all take the opportunity very seriously, and for good reason. The prize packages total thousands of dollars!
Mackinac Island is always a dream location to visit no matter what time of year you are traveling, but planning your trip during the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is one of the best ways to see all the charm, magic and beauty that makes this island such a unique destination. Visitors flock from near and far to take advantage of the events and activities that make this celebration such an important fixture of the island’s appeal.
Be sure to plan ahead and book early because you won’t be the only one trying to get accommodations during this special time of the year!
2020 Mackinac Island Lilac Festival Events
The dates are always scheduled to run from the second Friday of the month to the third Sunday of the month of June, so it is always easy to plan ahead and ensure that you are able to fit the festival into your travel plans.
The coronation is usually one of the first events and the parade always marks the end of the event, so depending on your itinerary and travel wishes, you can schedule your adventure accordingly.
You will also want to research all the other smaller events that take place throughout the event and explore in person while you are there, since every hotel, shop, venue and restaurant joins in on the celebratory spirit of the event by hosting special events and offerings during this ten day period of the month of June.
Friday, June 5th – Coronation of the Lilac Queen and unveiling of the 2020 Poster for the festival
Saturday, June 6th – Special tours throughout the day, cornhole tournament and a block party
Sunday, June 7th – Special tours throughout the day as well as a lilac planting event
Monday, June 8th – Seminars, lectures and tours throughout the day and a street hockey game
Tuesday, June 9th – Musical events, tours and a Bingo event later in the evening
Wednesday, June 10th – Special hikes and tours such as the Governor’s summer residence
Thursday, June 11th – Additional special hikes, tours, events and regularly scheduled activities
Friday, June 12th – Blessing of the Animals, cannon firing at the Fort among other events
Saturday, June 13th – Dog and Pony Parade as well as other regularly scheduled events
Sunday, June 14th – “History of Mackinac Island” Grand Parade and Award Ceremony
Future Dates for the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival
June 4-13, 2021
June 3-12, 2022
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