ITHACA, N.Y. — Get ready to dance, eat and have fun this weekend at the annual Ithaca Festival.

Between Friday and Sunday, more than 1,000 musicians, dancers, community groups and other entertainers will perform on three different stages. There will also be crafts, shopping, local food, a local film festival and of course, the iconic parade.

“If you’ve never been to Ithaca, Ithaca Festival is the best way to meet our town,” Josh Dolan, the festival’s new executive director said.

Check out the full PDF schedule

The festival will sprawl across Downtown Ithaca with music and entertainment on three stages: the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons, the Dewitt Park Stage and Cayuga Radio Stage in Press Bay Alley. There will be craft vendors along Cayuga Street and plenty of food vendors on the Commons and State Street.

Ithaca has been celebrating the beginning of summer with the Ithaca Festival since 1977, and Dolan said the festival is all about keeping it local and celebrating all the artistic and musical talent here.

What does the weather look like this weekend?

As far as weather goes, it wouldn’t be Ithaca Festival without a little rain right? Unfortunately, rain is on the forecast so pack a raincoat and umbrella.

The good news is it looks like Friday will be the rainiest day this weekend and it will get nicer as the weekend goes on.  Thunderstorms are expected Friday with a temperature around 85 degrees. On Saturday, there is a chance of showers mainly before 9 a.m. It will be mostly cloudy during the day with a 40 percent chance of precipitation. The festival should end on a good note Sunday. It’s expected to be partly sunny and about 74 degrees.

Where to start?

The parade may feel like the real start to the weekend, but the fun, music, food and entertainment officially begins at noon Friday. The parade featuring Ithaca’s quirkiness and many community groups begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday on North Cayuga Street, but don’t miss the Ithaca Youth Bureau Festival Mile which starts at 5:45 p.m.

Festivities unofficially start Thursday evening with the re-launch of the Ithaca Farmers Market night market. The market will be open from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, with the Sim Redmond Band featuring Thousands of One performing from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

After the parade Friday night, there are a couple options to continue the celebration. There will be a free premiere screening of “Ithaca is Murals” at the State Theatre directed by this year’s Ithaca Festival Artist Shira Evergreen. The short documentary will feature Ithaca’s social justice and multicultural murals with a Q&A with filmmakers and muralists to follow. A screening of “The Big Lebowski” will take place after.

Alternatively after the parade, “The Blind Spots” will play from 8:30 to 10 p.m. at the Bernie Milton Pavilion for a “moxy rock throwdown lovefest.”

What’s new this year?

This year, the Ithaca Festival is featuring a number of fun “After Dark” programs for local night owls.

Enjoy country music at the Farmers’ Ball at the CSMA, check out a comedy hypnotist at Argos Inn or join a crowd dancing at a silent disco from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the Ithaca Commons. And those events are all after dark on Friday. On Saturday, there is a “Grease” sing-along and an Old Time Variety Show at the CSMA.

With the theme, “Arts! Agriculture! Adventure!”, local agriculture and the people behind Ithaca’s vibrant food scene will be highlighted at this year’s festival. Look for the Farmer & Foodie busking area on the Ithaca Commons.

What’s happening?

There is simply too much to sum up, but there is something for everyone. There are continuous performances — from dancers to magicians to musicians of all genres — from about 11 a.m. each day to 10 p.m. on multiple stages. Be sure to check out the schedule ahead of time. Dolan said there will also be an app available, with information to come on the Ithaca Festival website. So grab a beer from the beer garden by Bernie Milton Pavilion and snack from the many food vendors and enjoy some performances.

For music, there a plenty of local favorites on the schedule like the Gunpoets, Anna Coogan, Fall Creek Brass Band, Stone Cold Miracle, Big Mean Sound Marching, NEO Project and others. But the stages will be packed all day for three days, with new performers that may become fresh favorites.

Beyond music, there is poetry, dancing, magic and other performances suitable for all ages. The Dewitt Park Stage will feature the Nate & Kate Kid’s Show music and juggling hour at noon Saturday. There will also be belly dancing, Ithaca Community Circus, magic, puppets, improv and Polynesian dance throughout the weekend at Dewitt Park. On the Commons, don’t miss the GIAC Jumpers, Ithaca Community Poets. There will also be music all day Saturday and Sunday in Press Bay Alley (where you can also try some gourmet doughnuts at the launch of One Ring Donuts.

There are also opportunities to learn. If you’re a history fan, be sure to check out the History Center’s event “Celebrating the Ithaca Festival: A Community Conversation” where folklorist Hannah Davis will moderate a conversation about the festival’s 41-year history in the community. Attendees can share their own experiences, too. The event goes from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the History Center.

Courtesy of Ithaca Festival Program.

Where to park?

Parking is available at the Green Street, Seneca Street and Cayuga Street garages as well as downtown where available. The cost is $1 per hour or $7 per day on Friday and $5 per day on Saturday and Sunday. Organizers encourage people to walk, bike, use public transportation or carpool.

Also note that several streets will be closed, including Cayuga Street from East Buffalo to East Green Street. And State Street from North Geneva Street to the Ithaca Commons.

Where to learn more?

Visit the Ithaca Festival website. There will also be an app available to navigate the festival. Information about the app will be available on the festival website. You can also follow Ithaca Festival on Facebook where there are links to lots of events taking place all weekend.

Featured image: File photo.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.