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Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, which draws some 30,000 attendees annually (Photo courtesy of RIT)

Alt Fests


Rochester likes to party, and its countless festivals (we have more than most cities) celebrate seemingly everything. Along with the familiar carnival-in-the-park affairs, new singular events are appealing to a different crowd.

Are you a science geek? An arts lover? Each May, locals swarm the huge Rochester Institute of Technology campus in Henrietta for the free Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, a collision of left and right brainpower.

Expect the unexpected. Crowds at the festival, some 30,000 and growing, have been wowed by more than 2,700 exhibitors with inspired experiments like hot dog-serving robots, energy-efficient vehicles, motion control technology to explore the solar system, making music on a banana and using alternative energy to make ice cream. Not just a technical school, RIT excels in the arts, and Imagine RIT offers dance and martial arts demonstrations, music, videos and gaming demos.

Last year, visitors took part in live event journalism, "Rise Above the Crowd," using mobile devices to send pictures, videos, tweets and texts that were visible on large screens.

Imagine took over campus again in early May 2012 with a drag-race kickoff: Team-built electric vehicles competed for time in a quarter-mile performance test.

Are you a green-tinged locavore and avid recycler? More than 18,000 people attended the first Greentopia Festival in 2011, drawn by eco vendors, local foods prepared by local and celebrity chefs, fabulous live music, films and activist speakers such as Ed Begley Jr. and Bill McKibben.

Besides aiming to make Rochester an eco-friendly city, Greentopia was designed to renew interest in the city's High Falls district. The hope is to spark curiosity and raise funds to transform the windy and cold Pont de Rennes Bridge, a pedestrian crossover of the Genesee River with views of the 96-foot High Falls, and its surroundings into a park and arboretum-similar to the High Line in New York City.

This year Greentopia expands from two days to five in September and broadens its scope. It's being billed as a celebration of inspiration through art, music, organic and locally grown food and beverages, ideas and activism. Greentopia 2012 offers more things to see and do, including a documentary film series with panel discussions, fashion shows, live music, local food and exhibits of green products and technologies. The festival also is expanding beyond High Falls to venues around the city.,

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