During the Fringe Festival's first year, around 30,000 attended, and in 2016 it exceeded expectations with 68,000. This year, organizers are looking to top that number with over 25 venues.

The sixth-annual KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival — think upstate New York's version of Coachella — gets underway today with scores of artists and performances on tap.

During the Fringe Festival's first year, around 30,000 attended, and in 2016 it exceeded expectations with 68,000. This year, organizers are looking to top that number with over 25 venues and 500-plus performances and events.

Among the highlights in store:


Howie Hypnotize — 6 p.m.: Ever wonder what it's like to be on stage? Then volunteer for the Howie Hypnotize Show, an interactive experience that makes you the star of the show. Howie is always looking for audience members who want to have the most fun, so before each show, he conducts an entertaining experiment to see who can be hypnotized. Whether onstage or in the audience, though, fun is assured. 60 minutes, tickets required, School of the Arts: Ensemble Theatre venue. 50 Shades of Gay — 9 p.m.: An adult variety show, packed with comedy, music, drag queens, audience participation and more. Written, produced, and starring Get Out magazine's LGBT Comedian of the Year, Ike Avelli. Featuring Tym Moss and Viki Villainess! 60 minutes, tickets required, TheatreROCS Stage at Abilene venue.


Complimentary Heckling — 6 p.m.: Crackerjack brings her Complimentary Heckling to the sidewalks of Rochester. It's like heckling, but with compliments, and it's free. Be ready to get heckled about how amazing you are. 60 minutes, tickets not required, Parcel 5 venue. Bad Idea Entertainment — 7:30 p.m.: A comedic look inside the train-wreck world of entertainment. Since 2014, Douglas Stafford has been entertaining at Renaissance Faires as well as at private and corporate events, and now he invites you to take a peek at the slightly twisted, inside world of professional entertainment through circus, sideshow and magic. It’s not a good idea; it’s a bad idea. It’s better entertainment through poor life choices. 60 minutes, tickets required, School of the Arts: Black Box Theatre venue.


Cars and Their Lovers — 10 a.m.: Cars and their Lovers is a multimedia show by father/daughter team Joe Flaherty (photography and film) and Caedra Scott-Flaherty (narration). In a recreated drive-in, the audience will experience the true stories of how classic cars and their significant others first met, fell in love and decided to settle down together in Detroit, the Motor City. Sit back, enjoy the show and touch a classic car or two. 45 minutes, tickets required, Writers & Books venue. Stages of the Game Teen Improv Troupe — 3 p.m.: Laugh-ripping and steeped in spontaneity, Stages of the Game Teen Improv Troupe goes for the gut. Enjoy an outburst of improvisational comedy performed by some of the brightest (and slightly twisted) teen minds in the Rochester area. Bring the whole family for this fast-paced, interactive show. Let your goofy ideas tag along too, because audience participation is welcomed and encouraged. By the end of the explosive hour, you'll be howling with laughter and only want more. 60 minutes, tickets required, Lyric Theatre: Cabaret Hall venue.


Songs in the Key of “Eh!” — 2 p.m.: Songs in the Key Of "Eh!" takes an entertaining journey through the Canadian songbook with songs by Leonard Cohen, k.d. lang, The Band, Neil Young, Sarah McLachlan, The Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot, and many more, in celebration of Canada's 150th birthday. Award-winning Western New York musicians Theresa Quinn, Leah Zicari, and Cathy Carfagna — who brought the sold-out tribute to Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt to last year's Fringe — blend harmonies and creative instrumentation in this must-see show. 90 minutes, tickets required, Bernunzio Uptown Music venue. The Time I Didn't Go to Ireland and Other True Stories of Things That Never Happened — 5 p.m.: Bill Benet shares funny and heartwarming stories from his upbringing in the circus to his Army years in the tumultuous '60s. From his father’s start as a porter on the Ringling Brothers’ train, to Bill’s appearance as a clown with the Garden Brothers’ Circus, to his family’s 38 years selling kazoos at Sibley’s, Bill tells the true stories of things that never happened. 90 minutes, tickets required, Writers & Books venue.


Songs and Interludes — 6 p.m.: Keyboardist and singer/songwriter Glen Wyand is back at Fringe, using elements of jazz, rock, pop and classical to draw listeners into the changing moods and landscapes of his original songs and music. Both artistic and dynamic, Glen's sound and style are uniquely his own. 60 minutes, tickets not required, Java's Cafe venue. 3D Sound Experience in the Immersive Igloo — 9 p.m.: Submerge yourself in the soothing sounds of immersive music composed and presented by spatial sound artist Tom Montagliano. Within his inflatable, 40-foot, glowing Immersive Igloo, you’ll find yourself seated in a circle of eight speakers, bathing you in blankets of warm and wondrous vibrations. Close your eyes and let the ambient, electronic soundscapes guide you on your introspective adventure. 50 minutes, tickets required, Spiegelgarden venue.


A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Audition — 6:30 p.m.: Blending film, music, narration and performance art, this live, multimedia show tells the story of the Lanthan Mire, the great hider in despair, who travels through time on a gigantic strand of DNA, arriving lost in the great epochs of human spirit disintegration. In this year's episode, Mire is living in 1980s New York City, struggling, as many artists in time, to find his release and not go insane. Based on the novella of the same name. 60 minutes, tickets required, Lyric Theatre: Cabaret Hall venue. I Don't Have to Be Funny All the Time — 9:30 p.m.: Alma is tired of being typecast and has set out to prove that she can be serious. With the help of her two best friends, Sam and Mike, she will try to prove to all of Rochester, through a hysterical and heart-warming cabaret, that she can be a "real" actor. Her singing voice has been described as loud, brassy and "like Ethel Merman," and you get to hear it firsthand. 60 minutes, tickets required, Lyric Theatre: Cabaret Hall venue.


The Geriactors Present! — 2 p.m.: The Geriactors is a touring troupe of local mature actors, spreading live theater throughout the Greater Rochester area — from Batavia to Aurora and as far south as Cuba (NY) — since 2000. They've appeared in every Rochester Fringe, and this year, they're presenting world premieres of short plays by local playwrights accompanied by songs from the 1910 Rochester Songbook. The plays range from serious to comic; the songs are amusingly nostalgic. 60 minutes, tickets required, Writers & Books venue. Murder Mystery at the Central Library — 6 p.m.: Over the years, there have been numerous tales of ghost sightings in the Rundel Memorial Building of Central Library. A new story has just begun, and participants are invited to use their best sleuthing skills to help catch the murderer. 75 minutes, tickets not required, Central Library venue.

Sept. 21

Loop Painting — 6 p.m.: Seth Faergolzia will take multitasking to a new level with his loop-painting performance, simultaneously creating a large painting while improvising with acrobatic voice and loop pedal to create choral landscapes. A loop is a repeating section of sound material; short sections of material can be repeated to create thick sound layers. The painting will evolve with the loop and will be up for auction, and a video will be released the week following Fringe. 60 minutes, tickets required, TheatreROCS Stage at Abilene venue. After Hours — A Cappella Hour — 9 p.m.: Get excited for After Hours A Capella group, known for its unique arrangements and energy-filled shows. Popular with audiences of all ages, this co-ed a cappella group from the University of Rochester performs a wide range of genres. Whether your tastes include classics, pop, rock or even electronic dance music, After Hours has a song for you. 60 minutes, tickets required, Bernunzio Uptown Music venue.

Sept. 22

Farm to Fringe: Pumpkin Carving Contest — 5 p.m.: Celebrate the beginning of autumn. Organizers will supply the pumpkins and carving kits; you bring the imagination. Get creative onsite or drop off your own carved masterpiece from home. Leave your jack-o-lantern on display in the Spiegelgarden while Fringe-goers vote throughout the night. 120 minutes, tickets required, Spiegelgarden venue. Stand-up Through the Ages — 8 p.m.: Same folks, new jokes. Stand-Up Through the Ages is back this year with a new comedy showcase featuring performers in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. After watching their individual performances back to back, you'll realize that they have nothing — and everything — in common. The show features Kara Maillie, Derrick Williams, Charlie Frusci, Greg Owens, Adele Fico, Phyllis Reed and host Bob Holzwarth. 60 minutes, tickets required, School of the Arts: The DS Comedy Club venue.

Sept. 23

Disco Kids — 11 a.m.: The 2016 sell-out hit returns. Big party for pint-size partiers takes over Club Spiegeltent — Kiddie Style. The next generation of club kids is here. From popping to pouting, Disco Kids is a fun-filled dance extravaganza that is the talk of kid town. Lights, music and glow sticks! Welcome to Fringe's not-so-silent disco. Note: Disco Kids is not silent disco for kids. There are no headphones involved. Only DJs. And loads of fun. 60 minutes, tickets required, Spiegeltent venue. Close Encounters with Creepy Crawly and Wiggly Things: Storytime in the Garden — 3 p.m.: Bring your little ones for a reading from local environmentalist Laurie Broccolo's newly released children's book about creepy, crawly creatures. Take an adventure with the main character as she discovers how fascinating — and sometimes scary-looking — creatures help our planet. The story springs to life as she tiptoes barefoot through her Rochester journey. 30 minutes, tickets not required, Spiegelgarden venue.

Lodging can be found near One Fringe Place, and it’s easy to get around by car, public transportation or on foot.

To buy tickets, go online at http://rochesterfringe.com/tickets-and-shows to find a show and click on a showtime to purchase; call 585-957-9837 (fees apply); at the Box Office — line hours: Thursdays: 6 p.m.-8 p.m. and Saturdays noon-3 p.m.

Visit http://rochesterfringe.com for more information.