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Lilac Festival on Michigan’s Mackinac Island

Submitted by on May 24, 2019 – 8:47 amNo Comment
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Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, MichiganSpring arrives a little bit later in the northern reaches of Michigan, so the 10-day The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival takes place June 7 through 16, 2019.

The highlight — the Lilac Festival Grand Parade — steps off at 4 p.m. June 16, 2019.

The celebrating of Mackinac’s lilac collection began in 1949 with a one-day event called the Mackinac Island Lilac Day. But the bigger question is: why are there so many beautiful lilacs on Mackinac?

According to the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau, “the story of the island’s lilacs goes back much farther than the festival. Lilacs aren’t native to Mackinac, or anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere, for that matter. Instead, they were brought to the island, and the best guess is that they first arrived with the Hubbard family from New Hampshire, according to Jeff Young, a master gardener and University of Vermont instructor who serves as horticulturist for the island’s Lilac Festival.

“European immigrants brought lilacs to New England and planted them near their farms for good luck. So, when the Hubbards moved to Mackinac and began farming on the west side of the island, they planted lilacs.

“Some of the lilac stems near that farm, which later was developed into cottages in an area known as Hubbard’s Annex, are about 100 years old and are offspring of older stems that were also about 100 years old. So, it has been about 200 years since lilacs were brought to Mackinac. Young knows of no older or larger stems in the United States or Canada.

“During the past two centuries, lilacs have flourished on the island. Though the plants aren’t native to Mackinac, they find good growing conditions in the island’s shallow, well-drained soil with a high pH level due to the underlying limestone. Adequate rainfall and a good hardening each winter have strengthened Mackinac’s lilacs to the point that they are the largest in the country – with some stems larger than two feet across at the base.

“Horticulturists that visit Mackinac are amazed by the size of the lilacs because they don’t see them that big anywhere else.

“As more people built homes on Mackinac in the late 1800s, they brought lilacs with them, too. Then, to attract more visitors to the island, the Lilac Festival was created after World War II. Residents, businesses and the state park planted lilacs everywhere.

“Now, wherever you go on Mackinac, you see beautiful, flowering lilacs and enjoy the plant’s pleasing fragrance.

“’You will not find a better setting of lilacs anywhere in the country because they’ve been built into everything’, Young said. ‘There’s nowhere you can go on the island where you’re not going to see them and enjoy them. It’s better than any botanical garden.’”

(Photo courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau)

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