Lilyfest offers a unique festival experience for all ages

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ROCKBRIDGE, Ohio (WOUB) — Lilyfest, the annual arts, garden and music festival at Bishop Educational Gardens (13200 Little Cola Rd.) celebrated local artistry and gardening this weekend.

If it weren’t for the garden landscape and Viking village, Lilyfest might sound like an ordinary music festival that takes place around this time of year.

However, it is anything but.

When walking through Lilyfest, you are surrounded by a garden environment, actors in period clothing and vendors selling a plethora of artistic and garden wares. Unlike the loud and raucous nature of most music festivals, Lilyfest has a calm atmosphere immediately upon entering, despite the event’s busy nature upon arrival.

A flower for sale at Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
A vendor selling garden gnomes at Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
A patch of flowers at Bishop Educational Garden during Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
One of the vendors selling art at Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
A musician performs at Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
Just a few of the many vendors at Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
Just a few of the many vendors at Lilyfest [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]

Lilyfest pays tribute to the memory of Bruce Bishop, late husband of festival founder Bobbi Bishop. Their shared vision to promote awareness of locally crafted art continues to be at the heart of the festival’s mission to this day.

Bishop says Lilyfest is unique because it provides many of the same things as a “traditional” festival – like local music and art – but in a far more peaceful setting.

“It’s a much different festival than they’re used to going to because it’s not on pavement, it’s on gravel paths and through the woods,” Bishop said. “People come in and they’re all stressed, and they hit the ground and kinda go ‘phew,’ because it’s a very calming kind of place.”

The tranquil atmosphere isn’t the only thing that makes Lilyfest special. An annual highlight of the event is a “Viking encampment,” which brings a Renaissance fair vibe to the event. As you walk through, you’ll see people dressed up as Vikings, cooking chicken over fires, doing blacksmithing and offering axe throwing.

A viking reenactor sits in the shade [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
The entrance to the Viking village [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
A Viking reenactor hard at work [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
A Viking reenactor making period-accurate food [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
A Viking blacksmith [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]
Flower crowns for sale in the Viking village [ Ahmed Hamed | WOUB ]

Bishop said the village has been a highlight of the festival for over 20 years, and a feature her husband had been wanting to add to the garden before he passed away.

“Their encampment keeps growing every year, it’s really neat to see,” said Bishop. “(So are) the activities they present to the public.”

Viking re-enactor Adam Holmes says Lilyfest is like “a vacation” to him.

“We’re just doing our thing that we like to do as re-enactors,” Holmes said. “This is my third Lilyfest, and I really like listening to the music of Appalachia … it’s a nice, chill festival. The grounds are gorgeous, the gardeners do a nice job of keeping everything up.”

Populating Lilyfest are guests, vendors and volunteers of all ages, including the volunteer force made up almost entirely of children.

“I have young people as my helpers, and I love working with them,” Bishop said. “It kinda keeps me younger.”

Bishop has been organizing Lilyfest for over 30 years. She says that the joy and appreciation expressed by festival guests is all she needs to motivate her.

“I love watching the people react to the artists and the music, and the happiness I see on their face(s),” Bishop said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”