Empire Statesmen Marching In Lilac Parade This Weekend
It’s a busy time of year for Rochester’s Empire Statesmen as they prepare for the summer drum and bugle corps contest season beginning in mid-June, but they’ll be taking time to stop and smell the roses…rather, the lilacs, this weekend. The corps will again be marching in the Rochester Lilac Festival Parade, on Saturday, May 13. The parade marks the transition from the winter concert season to summer parades and field contests.
The parade will also feature the Empire Cadets, the youth marching band operated as a community outreach program by the Empire Statesmen.
The Rochester Lilac Festival is the largest celebration of its kind in North America, drawing visitors from every continent. The 2006 Lilac Festival Parade is the largest ever hosted by the Festival, with more than 120 entries, including more than 20 nationally recognized drum and bugle corps and marching bands, local dignitaries, school bands and school children from all areas of Monroe County. The Lilac Parade marches up the west side of Highland Park, then turns east on Highland Avenue, passing in front of hundreds of lilac bushes on the gentle slope rising from Highland Avenue.
The Lilac Festival was first held in 1898, when 3,000 people gathered one Sunday in May to enjoy the lilacs. Ten years later, the number had grown to 25,000. Today, more than 1,200 flowering lilac bushes attract more than half a million people during the annual 10-day festival.
Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed New York City’s Central Park, was responsible for the final development of Highland Park. The park’s lilac collection was started by horticulturist John Dunbar in 1892 with 20 varieties, including descendants of slips of native Balkan mountain flowers brought to western New York by early colonists.
Area residents will have several other opportunities to watch the Empire Statesmen on summer weekends: three parades on the July 4 holiday weekend; the Vince Bruni Preview of Champions contest at Wegman’s Stadium at Aquinas Institute on July 1; a field exhibition during a Raging Rhinos game on July 3 and again on Labor Day weekend when the Empire Statesmen host the 2006 Drum Corps Associates (DCA) world championship tournament at Paetec Park Stadium.
The Empire Statesmen drum and bugle corps is a self-supporting independent group that represents the city of Rochester across the United States and Canada and as far abroad as Europe, the Caribbean and South America. The Empire Statesmen are known for their high quality, entertaining performances on the contest field, concert stage and in street parades and other special events. This year’s performance schedule will take the corps across the northeast, from the Atlantic shore of southern New Jersey to central Ohio and southern Pennsylvania.
The Statesmen have won the DCA world championship title five times in the past 15 years: in 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2004. The corps also won the American Legion national title in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2004.
In 1998, the Statesmen became the only drum corps in history to win the triple crown: the World Show Band Championship, with the highest score ever recorded in that contest, in London, England, the DCA title and the American Legion championship. The World Drum Corps Hall of Fame chose the Empire Statesmen as the senior corps of the decade for the 1990s.
More information about the Empire Statesmen summer performance schedule is available by calling (585) 266-2232 or visiting the Web site at: www.statesmen.org