The Taos Lilac Festival has become a highlight of springtime, celebrating the beauty and enchanting fragrance of our town's bounty of lilac bushes. Last year, the production of the Lilac Festival was transferred over from organizers John Hamilton and Thom Wheeler to the Taos County Chamber of Commerce.

This year, the chamber premieres the Taos Lilac Festival and Home and Business Expo, a weekend of festivities from Friday through Sunday (May 17-19) from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily.

With the traditional Kit Carson Park venue unavailable due to renovations, the 2019 events will be centered on and around Civic Plaza Drive, which will be closed off to vehicle traffic for the weekend. Booths, tents and food trucks will line the street.

"It's going to be a real community outdoor street fair, with so much to see and do," said Chamber Executive Director Susan Cady. "We have a fantastic variety of creative arts and crafts people from Taos and all around the region -- Taos, Santo Domingo, Placitas, Embudo, Albuquerque, Glorieta and up into Colorado. Everything from jewelry to hand-crafted wood furniture, pottery, handmade leather purses and bags. There's upcycled decor, mosaic art, lamps, metal art, photo art, weaving, children's clothing and so much more."

"We're excited to change it up this year and have it as a street-fair festival," said Lindsey Pfaff-Bain, the chamber's director of membership and events. "We're going with the flow, making this the best event possible with the help of all the businesses and our 150 partners. We'll have an interactive walking map showing the many nearby businesses that have created lilac-themed window displays. Also a walking tour map of where you can actually see lilacs blooming all around town."

A new addition to the festival this year is the one-day Home & Business Expo. Businesses will have their tables set up on Saturday (May 18), 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., inside Bataan Hall at 120 Civic Plaza Drive. Watch for local businesses such as Randall Lumber, Mattress Mary's Mountain Lifestyle, Wolfgang's Spa Works, Jonah Reynolds' Pangea Builders, Dan's Carpet, Tiles and Window Coverings, University of New Mexico-Taos, Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos Mountain Casino, CFT Decor and Gifts, Taos Retirement Village and many others.

"It's a chance for businesses to connect with their existing customers and meet their potential new customers in a meaningful way, in a unique setting," Cady said. "It's also a great opportunity for business-to-business networking."

Cady spoke of some of the highlights of the outdoor festival. "Río Grande Ace will be there with lilac starts available for people to plant at home, as well as outdoor furniture, barbecue smokers, etc. Los Jardineros Garden Club of Taos will have an information tent with all you need to know to plant and care for your lilac trees, as well as lilac lotions and potions. On Saturday and Sunday, Los Jardineros will have a craft tent for kids."

Food trucks from around the region will offer drinks and ice cream and fresh-popped kettle corn, as well as more substantial fare from Jen's Diner and Texas Hill Country Barbecue.

Saturday will be enlivened by the Stray Hearts Animal Shelter's pet pageant at 1 p.m., with prizes for best costumes and the invitation to "let your pets show off their inner spring fairy or wood nymph." Stray Hearts will also have a kitten-kissing booth on Sunday afternoon.

At noon on Sunday, Great Chefs of Taos will present its sixth annual Taco Cook-off. For a $20 ticket, guests can sample tacos from a selection of Taos' best chefs, with representatives from the Sagebrush Inn, El Monte Sagrado, Aceq, the Trading Post Café, Martyrs Steakhouse, Antonio's and Cid's Market. All proceeds benefit the award-winning Taos High School Culinary Arts Program. The high school student-chefs will also be preparing tacos at the event.

"We are a nonprofit charitable organization," said Great Chefs of Taos Board President John Rush. "In essence our mission is 'educating the chefs of tomorrow, today' through various culinary events, allowing the community to support and enjoy the process."

The chamber extends special thanks to the event's sponsors: Río Grande Ace Hardware, Taos Mountain Casino, U.S. Bank, Kit Carson Electric Coop, Paul Davis Restoration, The Gorge Restaurant, Pärcht, Margaret Palmer Floral Design, UNM-Taos, Wolfgang's Spa Works and the town of Taos.

"It takes so many different entities working together to really pull off a well-rounded event," Pfaff-Bain said. "Nonprofits, local businesses and, of course, the event-goers, all the people who just love and enjoy these festivals. It's that time of year that people are getting outdoors, the perfect time for a great community event for locals and for visitors."

"I'm so looking forward to being outside with our community again," said Cady. "It seems like it's been a long winter. We're all ready to get out and enjoy the camaraderie!"

For more information, call (575) 751-8800.

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