Special event

Taos in bloom

Annual Lilac Festival celebrates the community's natural beauty

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Lilac blossoms announce the coming of summer in Taos. Walk down any one of the narrow streets, particularly in the town’s historic district, and you will become intoxicated by the scent of lilac blossoms. Almost as much as hollyhocks, lilacs have become the floral symbol of the paradise of spring and summer in Taos.

The Taos Lilac Festival will host its fifth annual festival this year Friday through Sunday (May 19-21). The festival celebrates the arrival of blooming lilacs throughout the town. The center of the celebration will be at Kit Carson Park and will feature entertainment, food and craft vendors, a wine and beer garden and many family-friendly events, including the Tio Vivo carousel.

Festivalgoers will also have an opportunity to learn about caring for lilacs in our challenging climate variations and receive gardening advice from members of Los Jardineros Garden Club. The festival focuses on landscape beautification and the natural beauty of Taos. The Lilac Festival Garden Center will have a large selection of live lilac bushes for sale.

Also a part of the festival is The New Mexico Beer and Wine Garden and musical entertainment. Also, Saturday (May 20), there will be a pet parade, a pet costume contest and the “Taos Lilac Festival 5K Run” and “Family Fun Run.” The “Taos Taco Cook-Off,” where local restaurants will compete for votes, will take place Sunday (May 21).

The history of how lilac bushes came to Taos hasn’t actually been nailed down, but there are theories. According to the Lilac Festival website, lilacs are said to have arrived in Santa Fe from France, lovingly transplanted by the famous Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, who arrived in 1851. However, Lamy’s struggles with Taos’ own Padre Antonio José Martínez meant that he did not visit this far-flung and unruly parish. It seems unlikely that Lamy’s lilacs made their way to Taos in those early days.

Lilacs were most likely brought to Taos by people who moved here around 1900 and after. Most local historians think the popularity of the plant was due to the famous lilac garden in front of the hacienda built by the infamous Arthur Manby. The garden was once in the area a municipal parking lot now occupies and near the Taos Community Auditorium.

Manby, an Englishman, resorted to a number of reportedly crooked and dishonest means to gain as much land as possible in the area and made many enemies in the process. Some people still consider him to be one of the most hated men in Taos. It is ironic that this beautiful flowering bush may have been brought here by a man of such reputation.

“There are many beautiful lilacs in Taos,” Thom Wheeler said. “We are trying to encourage people to take good care of them so we all can enjoy a wonderful sight.” He, along with John Hamilton, is a co-organizer of the Taos Lilac Festival.

Festival organizers are encouraging Taoseños to plant more lilacs. They hope their festival will grow into a regional attraction drawing people from the surrounding states to visit Taos in the spring to see the beautiful lilacs. They especially encourage homeowners and businesses that are on major thoroughfares to plant lilacs.

And one advantage to lilacs is they may be planted throughout the year. Local garden centers are well stocked with different varieties and sizes of lilacs. Small lilac bushes can usually be purchased for less than $10.

The Lilac Festival, in partnership with Taos Mesa Brewing, will bring “Lilacs, Bluegrass and Brews” to this year’s event. The music lineup will feature folk and bluegrass musicians for all three days of the festival.

More than just a weekend of family fun, the Taos Lilac Festival promotes gardening, improving landscaping throughout the area and increasing the curb appeal of the Taos community.

“The Lilac Festival is a great event for visitors from near and far to come and appreciate the beauty of Taos in the spring,” said Karina Armijo, director of marketing and tourism for the town of Taos. “We are looking forward to a weekend of beautiful lilacs and family fun.”

For more information, visit taoslilacfestival.com.

Taos Lilac Festival

Kit Carson Park, 211 Paseo del Pueblo Norte

Friday-Sunday (May 19-21)

Taos Lilac Garden Center

Tents with garden supplies, lilacs for sale, lilac advice and lilac seminars. Self Guided Lilac Walking Tour through the Taos Historic District

Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Arts and Crafts Fair

Friday (May 19), 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Saturday (May 20) 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Sunday (May 21), noon–5 p.m.

Beer, Wine and Food Garden

Friday (May 19), 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

Saturday (May 20) 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Sunday (May 21), noon–5 p.m.

Pet Parade, Costume Contest and Pet Blessing

Saturday (May 20) 11 a.m.

Participants gather at 10:15 a.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Costume Contest and Pet Blessing will follow the parade.

Tio Vivo Carousel

Saturday (May 20) 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Sunday (May 21), 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Taos Taco Cook Off

Sunday noon to 2 p.m.

Lilac Festival Wine Dinner at Medley

Sunday (May 21) at 6 p.m.

 Live music schedule

Friday (May 19), 2-5 p.m. Ginsengers (old time Americana)

Saturday (May 20), Noon-2:30 p.m. O’Duffy’s Lament (Irish Roots), 3-5:30 p.m. John Pepe and Friends (bluegrass)

Sunday (May 21), 12:30-3:30 p.m. Zephania Stringfield Band (folk and bluegrass)

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