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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Bottrall

Lilac Festival on Mackinac Island

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

It’s here! My favorite time of year on Mackinac Island. Sometimes I wonder if in a past life I was really a puppy. Because, just like a puppy, so many things on this island are my favorite thing. But lilac festival on Mackinac Island is truly special.

From the moment you step off the ferry docks you are surrounded by the smell of spring. There is a huge lilac bush planted by the Shepler's dock. I’m sure its purposeful. The smell is so much more welcoming than the other smell Mackinac is known for, the one the horses leave behind.

The smell of lilacs brings back so many wonderful memories. I grew up with a light and dark purple lilac tree in my backyard. They seemed enormous, 15 foot tall at least, and every year they transformed our backyard into a fairy playground enveloped in fragrance. My little brother would fill his arms with the blooms and declare he wanted to grow up and be a flower man.

There is a nest snuggled into the branches of my front yard lilac here on Mackinac. It has five bright blue eggs tucked inside. The mama and papa robin bravely hide inside watching the thousands of tourists walk by every day, just an arms length away. Pretty soon there will be babies in my beautiful lilac. What could be better?

Each year I am entranced by the sight and smell of lilac and when they finally die off and the smell fades, I wait anxiously for them to return. If only I could have this feeling year-round and yet not even the best soaps and perfumes can seem to duplicate the soft, intoxicating fragrance.

I had my nose in the lilac bush when it came to me, 'I wonder what lilacs taste like? Are they even edible?' The closest I had come was the lilac lemonade at the Pink Pony, but while their vodka, Chambord and lemon concoction is a pretty purple color, it doesn't really contain lilacs.

A little bit of research and I discovered that lilacs are edible. The internet even yielded a few recipes to experiment with. By nightfall I had a pitcher of ice-cold water filled with lilac blooms infusing in my refrigerator. In the morning, the nectar from the lilacs had transformed my tap water into something delightful, lightly perfumed and sweet. Almost like the lavender water they put out at the finest spas. Can you actually feel purple on your tongue? Cause I’m pretty sure I did.

My mind is now swirling with visions of shortbread cookies with flecks of purple; rich, lilac spotted custards; a lilac colored ice cream and of course lilac lemonade. Or lilac syrup mixed into some vodka, or…. With over 300 lilac bushes on Mackinac Island, the possibilities here do seem endless. Although I should mention, it is illegal to pick the lilacs on Mackinac Island, or any flower for that matter. You are only allowed to pick your own. Good thing there are several lilac bushes in our yard.

I enjoyed the lilac water and then set about creating lilac lemonade, hoping to enhance the delicate flavor. The final result finds the flavor of the bloom at the end of your taste where it rests on the back of the tongue with a hint of curious sweetness. I must say it was even more enhanced with the addition of vodka.

See below for the Lilac Lemonade recipe and later this week we will get even a little more creative. Please let me know how it goes when you make any of my recipes. Send along a picture or a comment and share this with all your friends. They will be glad you did.

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