Rochester Fringe to Host 2018 U.S. Association of Fringe Festivals Conference

The United States Association of Fringe Festivals has chosen Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce member KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival to host its annual conference in Rochester November 5 through 7, 2018.

“This is a real honor for us – both for our festival and for our city,” said Festival Producer Erica Fee. “We are thrilled to host producers and staff from many of the 29-member festivals in 21 states, and look forward to introducing them to the Flower City.”

The conference will include tours of the region, visits to Fringe venues, professional development sessions for producers as well as master classes for venue managers, and a meet-and-greet for local artists and attending producers.

“Holding our next conference in Rochester was a unanimous decision by the USAFF,” said Michael Marinaccio, producer of the Orlando Fringe (FL), which is the oldest fringe festival in the U.S. "I think Rochester Fringe is a great example to new festivals about how to make a big impact on their communities very quickly. The organization, infrastructure, community support, and artistic content are all comparable to or exceeding those of many festivals that have been around much longer.” 

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival debuted in 2012 for five days and attracted more than 30,000 attendees – twice the amount that organizers had estimated. The following year, it expanded to 10 days and has remained so for the past five years, becoming the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival in 2016. Attendance at the 2017 Fringe’s more than 500 performances and events – 175 of them free of charge – was estimated at over 78,000, and the 2018 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival will expand to 11 days (Wednesday, Sept. 13 – Saturday, Sept. 22).

“The success of the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival in just six years and the fact that it now serves as an inspiration to fringe festivals across the country and around the world is something of which our city can be extremely proud,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “I look forward to welcoming the USAFF to Rochester next year, and am grateful that Fringe contributes to the vibrancy and artistic fabric of our community.”

“Rochester is the cultural capital of Upstate New York and one of the most arts-centric cities in the country, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to hold the USAFF annual conference,” adds Visit Rochester President and CEO Don Jeffries. “Visit Rochester looks forward to partnering with the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival to welcome conference delegates and visitors to our community.”  

Fringe organizers point to the giant, free, outdoor spectacles that Rochester’s Fringe presents each year as one of the keys to its success. From aerial dancing by California’s BANDALOOP (2012/2013) and New York City’s Grounded Aerial (2015) on the 21-story HSBC Building, to street theatre by Canada’s Circus Orange (2014) with its 20-foot-tall, fire-breathing TRICYCLE at Manhattan Square, and from the choreographed “flight” of Brooklyn’s STREB EXTREME ACTION COMPANY (2016), to this year’s U.S. premiere tour of French street theatre company Plasticiens Volants’ awe-inspiring BIG BANG at Parcel 5 – tens of thousands of Fringe attendees have experienced art on a truly grand scale.

“We are being called ‘the Rochester model’ by other fringe festivals across the U.S. and the world because of these performances,” adds Fee. “A recent study conducted by the Audience Agency, suggests that outdoor arts achieve what the rest of the arts sector and theatre aspires to but seldom delivers: an audience that is representative of the population as a whole. Making the arts accessible to everyone is a key part of our – and every fringe festival’s – mission.”

Also announced: beginning April 1 through April 30, 2018, artists and producers may submit production proposals directly to the 2018 Fringe’s 20+ venues via rochesterfringe.com. Based on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe model, the vast majority of the Fringe’s 500+ shows are selected in this way. Only a few headliners – such as 2017’s sold-out John Mulaney: KID GORGEOUS at Kodak Hall in Eastman Theatre, Spiegeltent productions, and all of the outdoor entertainment – are curated by the Fringe itself.

“In addition to making the arts accessible to audiences, our other key mission is to make audiences accessible to artists, providing them with a platform to share their ideas and develop their skills,” explains Fee, adding that this philosophy holds true for the more than 200 fringe festivals around the world that now take place on every continent except Antarctica.