The History of the Orleans County Heritage Festival

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War period, Genesee Community College’s Dr. Derek Maxfield organized the GCC Civil War Initiative, partnering with the Medina Sandstone Society and Orleans Renaissance Group in 2013 – 2015 including re-enactments at the GCC Medina campus, as well as a parade and ceremony in historic downtown Medina.

This program ended in 2015, but Dr. Maxfield and others wanted to continue the focus on history (especially our local history) and the concept of the Orleans County Heritage Festival was developed.  The first of those events was held on September 9-11, 2016 with four themes celebrated: Agriculture, Transportation, Cemeteries and Historic Gems.

The 2nd annual Heritage Festival was extended to include 2 weekends with lectures and workshops during the week, starting Friday, Sept. 8 with a kick-off party and ending Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. That year’s themes revolved around two anniversaries: Military,  commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States involvement of World War I; Erie Canal, celebrating the bicentennial of the creation of the Erie Canal; Legends & Lores, Spirits & Supernaturals, associated with a history of spirit, supernatural and/or ghost activities and Cobblestone & Sandstone, our location in association with the substantial use of cobblestone and/or sandstone in the historic architecture.

The 3rd annual Heritage Festival, a ten day event, Sept. 7-16, 2018 included themes: Erie Canal, Historic Women, Barns & Barn Quilts and Nature and Wildlife.

The 4th annual Heritage Festival continued to be a ten day event, Sept. 6-15, 2019 with no set themes. View all the promotional postcards and posters below.

Unfortunately, the 5th annual Heritage Festival was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With event planning still precarious, we decided to drop the “FESTIVAL” reference and rebrand it as Heritage Season for 2021 to celebrate our heritage at events held from September to October. Orleans Heritage Season is currently coordinated by Orleans County Tourism and Orleans County History Department.