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Lilac Festival adding new sensory regulating space to be more inclusive

File photo
Lilacs at Highland Park.

The Rochester Lilac Festival is adding a new feature that organizers say will make the festival more inclusive for individuals with disabilities.

The festival has partnered with AutismUp to implement a large tent and outdoor area that will serve as the event’s Sensory Space.

“This is definitely overdue,” said Jenny LoMaglio, co-executive producer for the festival.

The space will be near the Elmwood entrance of the festival grounds, away from the most populated areas. Within the tent, LoMaglio said, festival-goers will find mood lighting and activities like coloring books, music, weighted lap pads, Yogi balls, fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, and other items that support regulation.

“We are very saturated with amazing resources for autistic people, but out in the community there's not always stuff to do,” said Kelly Conlon, support services and member relations director at AutismUp.

Conlon said the sensory space satisfies a need in the community as the autism prevalence rate is increasing.

“It should hopefully expand to all the festivals because our kids really are part of the community. They want to experience things.” she said. “Sometimes it just takes them a little longer. Sometimes they need that break in between."

LoMaglio said the area is for all festival-goers.

“You don't have to be autistic to be able to enjoy this space,” she said. “Someone who just needs to decompress — that space is available.”

The Lilac Festival takes place from May 10 through May 19.

This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.

Racquel Stephen is WXXI's health, equity and community reporter and producer. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.