Special Events Policies & Procedures

General Policy Statement

The City of Rochester sponsors and encourages its citizens to sponsor special events that enhance the quality of life for residents of the entire metropolitan community and facilitate the use of City-owned recreation and park facilities. The City has established policies and procedures to ensure the success of such events by providing a system for advance planning and standard information and basic ground rules that allow City special events sponsors and facility users to achieve their mutual goals.

General Information

The City provides a wide variety of facilities and services for special events and general leisure time use. Individuals or groups wishing to make use of City facilities, equipment and/or services may apply through the Bureau of Communications or the Department of Recreation & Youth Services, Bureau of Recreation.

Permit Requirements

Permits are required for activities that are special events and for reserved use of recreation and park facilities. Special Events are:

  1. Pre-planned major activities;
  2. Pre-planned major activities involving use of public and/or private property; 
  3. Pre-planned major activities involving use of public and/or private property and requiring City support services, including police support. Such activities are customarily held for purposes of entertainment, celebration, amusement, cultural recognition, arts and crafts displays and/or sales and sports demonstrations or competitions aimed at drawing crowds that may impact surround neighborhoods and traffic flow.

Obtaining/Submitting Applications

The City’s Bureau of Communications is responsible for distributing, receiving and processing all Special Event Permit applications and for coordinating review of applications by appropriate City departments. The Bureau of Communications is located in City Hall, 30 Church Street, Room 202A, Rochester, New York 14614. The hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For additional information, please call 428-6690 or learn more about the special event permit.

The City’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services/ Bureau of Recreation is responsible for distributing, reviewing, and processing all Facilty Use Permit applications for the use of athletic, recreation and park facilities. The Bureau’s main office is located 400 Dewey Ave., Rochester, New York 14613. The Bureau’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For additional information please call 428-6755 or learn more about the facility use permit.

Applicants are encouraged to submit applications at the appropriate office as described above.

Application Processing Time Frame

The application review period and required permits(s) may vary depending on the type and location of the vent. No events should be publicized until the applicant has received approvals from the city. Permits and approvals for events, facility use, or support services are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Applications should be submitted within the time frames specified for the types of events proposed.

Generally, applications must be received along the time line below. However, depending on the size and scale of your event, it may be beneficial to begin the application process even earlier. First time events are especially encouraged to schedule an in-person meeting with staff at the Office of Special Events to review the City's process and go over any questions, etc.

Four months prior for: 

  • Neighborhood or community festivals. An event is defined as a festival if one or more of the following activities occur:
    • Outdoor entertainment,
    • Vendors selling food products or wares,
    • Carnival games/amusement rides,
    • Attendance doubling the estimated population in the area,

Two months prior for: 

  • Runs/Walks/Moving Athletic Events. All walks take place on sidewalks unless streets are specifically requested or required due to high anticipated attendance. Police services & City equipment & costs will be determined based upon an evaluation of the level of services needed;
  • Fireworks displays;
  • Street parades. NOTE: All residents, churches and businesses in the affected permit area must be notified of time, date and route by the applicant as a condition of permit approval.

One month prior for: 

  • Openings;
  • Dedications;
  • Block Parties: A block party is defined as an event which is organized and held by residents of a street as a social event. No attendance or participation fees are charged. However, food, goods and services are often donated to support the event. If a Block Party attracts people beyond the street, the event is NOT considered to be a block party; a festival permit will be required.
  • Educational or Church processions. Applicants may be directed to use sidewalks due to public safety conditions and manpower.

Minimum of 10 working days prior for: 

  • Use of public parks;
  • Use of athletic/recreation facilities
  • Erecting tents on public or private property: NOTE: Permits for erecting tents are issued by the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development's Permit Office, Room 121B, City Hall. A fee is required when erecting a tent. For details call 428-7037 for Fire Safety information and 428-7043 for Zoning information;
  • Setting up amusement rides on public or private property: NOTE: Permits for setting up amusement rides are issued by the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development's Permit Office, City Hall, 30 Church St.,  Room 121B. For additional information, call 428-7043.

Criteria for Approval/Disapproval

In issuing a permit for a special event, the City considers whether:

  1. The event is reasonably likely to cause injury to persons or property, create a disturbance, cause disorderly conduct or encourage or result in violation of the law;
  2. The event will substantially interfere with the safe and orderly movement of pedestrians and vehicular traffic in the area; 
  3. The proposed location is adequate for the size and nature of the event; 
  4. The event does not unreasonably interfere with the intended use of the area; e.g. Athletic fields, picnic areas, etc. (NOTE: Use of some park areas for other than intended use is limited to an aggregate of 72 hours per year);
  5. City equipment and services are available; 
  6. All permit requirements have been met.

Required Approvals/Appeals Process

The application review process begins when the City’s Bureau of Communications has received a completed application. Applications for special events must be approved by all appropriate offices including (but not limited to) the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Fire Department. The Bureau of Communications administers the review process.

Event elements

The Special Event permit process will take applicants through the requirements necessary for certain elements at their events, including food, music, street closure, neighbor notification, alcohol sale/use, fire safety, garbage plans, security, plans, and more. Certain events will require general liability insurance. For details on all of these things, learn more on the special event permit application forms.


Call the Office of Special Events at (585) 428-6690 to get the process started!