ITHACA, N.Y. — Don’t miss out on the fun at Ithaca Festival this weekend. From Friday to Sunday, musicians, dancers and entertainers will perform for festival-goers across four stages in Ithaca. Attendees can also expect local food, crafts and shopping, as well as other exciting experiences. With so much to do and see, here are 10 things to know about Ithaca Festival.
1 — The Ithaca Festival Parade marches Thursday – Yes, it’s probably going to rain
While performances start on Friday, the festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30 with the Ithaca Festival Mile Fun Run, followed by the iconic Ithaca Festival Parade from 6 to 8 p.m. The parade route will go south from North Cayuga Street to Court Street, beginning at Lewis Street.
After the parade, the fun will continue with $5 Bites from local food vendors — not to be confused with the upcoming Bite of Ithaca event June 17-22 — and a live performance by Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People at the Bernie Milton Pavilion.
Rain is likely for the parade — in fact, the only time it’s supposed to rain Thursday is between 5 and 8 p.m., according to weather reports. But, rain is really part of the tradition anyway.
2 — The festival almost didn’t happen but pulled through with community support
At the end of 2018, board members and organizers behind the Ithaca Festival put out a plea to the community to help save the festival. They needed to raise $30,000 by the end of the year to ensure the event would happen this year. Thanks to the community’s support, enough money was raised and Ithaca Festival lives on. Katt Hass, Assistant Director of Ithaca Festival, said that the community’s resounding support for the event makes this year special.
“It’s less the fact that it (Ithaca Festival) had a monetary sort-of default to it,” said Hass. “But more the fact that community itself came back to say that this is still something valuable, and knowing that we had that kind of emotional backing is really what propelled us forward.”
Putting on the festival every year is a massive undertaking, with pieces that are always evolving and improving. But, at its core, the festival will always be a place to entertain and showcase the community.
3 — What this year’s theme “Full STEAM ahead” means
This year’s theme is “Full STEAM Ahead” to honor Ithaca’s strong connection to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. It will celebrate Ithaca’s history of progressive technology and innovative ideas, as well as the city’s current development boom. Hass acknowledged the Ithaca Gun Company, Wharton Studio, Ithaca College’s theatre program and Cornell University’s engineering program, as well as the “working power” behind the city itself.
Attendees can enjoy art at the C.A.P Art Space, which will be hosting the first “Ithaca Festival Pop-Up Art Exhibit” to showcase artists from across Tompkins County. Come out to the pop-up Opening after Thursday evening’s parade to meet the artists.
4 — Enjoy some great local bites
Agava, The Piggery, Lou’s Dogs, Akemi Food and Mama Loye’s Cafe will kick off the weekend with some tasty cuisine.
The festival is featuring two new vendors: Akemi Food, which will be serving Japanese rice balls and soba noodle bowls, and Mama Loye’s Cafe, which will be serving West African and Southern-style dishes. Local wines, ciders and beers will also be available from Ithaca Beer Co.
POP UP @ The Ithaca Festival, curated by Ithaca is Foodies, will be another showcase of local culinary products. Five small businesses (Laurie’s Grain Free, Pies & Pinups, Food & Ferments, Finger Lakes Wine Flour and Hi Bar Gourmet Chocolate) will offer samples of their products. Each business will have the booth to themselves for four hours, so check back throughout the weekend to try something new that you might have missed. The POP UP will be located on the Commons in front of Casablanca Pizza and Indigo Rose Boutique.
Ithaca Festival 2019 Schedu… by on Scribd
5 — Check out your favorite local bands and music
With performances from about 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Friday through Sunday, attendees are sure to find a new favorite artist. Local musicians including Gunpoets, The Fall Creek Brass Band, Road Man, The Crucials and Thru Spectrums, among others, will be performing throughout the weekend.
The Vinyl Lounge, co-sponsored by Angry Mom Records and WRFI, will have a rotating selection of radio and vinyl DJs. The lounge will be located on The Commons in front of Autumn Leaves Used Books.
Make sure to check this year’s schedule for times and locations of performances.
6 — Be amazed by dancers, entertainers and all sorts of performances
Street performers have long been a part of Ithaca culture. Festival attendees will find performances of magic, juggling, and all types of dance.
Some performances include the Mirage Belly Dancers of Ithaca on Friday from 6:30 to 7:40 p.m., the GIAC Jumpers on Saturday from 12 to 12:50 p.m., the Ithaca Ballet on Saturday from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. and the Hula Hut Polynesian Dance group on Sunday from 2 to 2:40 p.m., all at the Cayuga Circle stage.
Check out the schedule for more performances.
7 — Browse wares from 100 vendors
The Ithaca Festival Spring Craft Fair will feature nearly 100 local and regional vendors showcasing items including jewelry, pottery, metalworking, dolls, toys, artwork and clothing. The fair will also feature small-batch craft foods and beverages such as honey, wine and syrup. With so many options, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
The fair will take place along Cayuga Street and the Commons on Friday from noon to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
8 — Join the Silent Disco
Thanks to a collaboration between the Ithaca Festival and Ithaca DJ Festival, the second annual I-Fest Disco Series will take place on Friday and Saturday during the festival weekend from 9:30 p.m. to midnight at the Bernie Milton Pavilion, free of charge. Twelve local DJs will spin dance music genres, including funk, disco, Latin, house, hip hop, reggaeton, dancehall and more. This year’s schedule can be found here.
How does a silent disco work? Each attendee will receive a pair of wireless headphones and the music from the DJs will be played into the headphones. With three DJs spinning at once, each festivalgoer can tune into whichever one they want and switch as often as they like. Anyone not wearing headphones will just see a big group of people dancing to no music.
9 — There’s something for everyone
Hass emphasized that Ithaca Festival is an inclusive event that is really geared toward everyone in the community.
“This is for everyone here. This is for the community at large. And we’re working on more efforts to make sure that it gets better,” said Hass. “Every year, we plan on giving it the ‘glow up’ and the ‘grow up’ that it deserves. How do we approach lines of inclusivity? How do we make sure that our events are safe spaces?”
This year, organization members and volunteers have completed Barstander training with the Advocacy Center. The Barstander training program focuses on sexual assault prevention through bystander intervention and provides trainees with tools to use when faced with risky situations.
“We worked pretty closely with them because we’re trying to make sure that we’re promoting the best of Ithaca that we can,” said Hass.
10 — A few logistics
Check out the festival map (embedded above) to see the best places to park – primarily the Seneca, Green and Cayuga street garages. There is also a small lot at the corner of MLK Jr./State Street and North Geneva Street. Parking is $1 per hour or $7 per day on Friday, and $5 per day Saturday through Sunday. Neighborhood parking is also available.
“Walking, biking, using public transportation, and carpooling are highly encouraged.”
Cayuga Street will be closed from Buffalo Street to the Ithaca High School for the Ithaca Festival Parade between 4 and 8 p.m.
During the festival from 6 a.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday, Cayuga Street will be closed between Green Street and Court Street. The 100 Block of West State/MLK Jr. Street will also be closed starting at 6 a.m. Friday for the duration of the festival.
Featured image courtesy of Ed Dittenhoefer.