Yadelig Lopez watches the annual PR Festival Parade in Rochester  on July 29. El Mensajero Photo by John Haeger Yadelig Lopez watches the annual PR Festival Parade in Rochester on July 29. El Mensajero Photo by John Haeger

Festival, parade showcase Puerto Rican heritage

ROCHESTER — Adam Camson and Danielle Fleissig awoke July 29 to the sounds of Latin music in their downtown neighborhood.

Camson, a Philadelphia native, and Fleissig, of Rochester, live at an apartment building near the staging area of the annual Puerto Rican Parade, which was held the second day of the three-day 48th-annual Puerto Rican Festival.

Above, Killian Batchelder and Cay Rodriguez exchange punches in the boxing ring during the annual Puerto Rican Festival in Rochester July 30.

"We woke up to these fantastic sounds," said Camson as the two sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk at Broad Street and Plymouth Avenue. "We had to come out and were pleasantly surprised when we got here."

Marisol Ramos-López, Rochester’s commissioner of Recreation & Youth Services, served as the parade grand marshal. Miguel Meléndez received the Father Tracy Award during the parade’s opening ceremony.

"It’s very humbling, really, because of the man who it’s named after (Father Laurence Tracy) … who has worked at improving the community," Meléndez told El Mensajero Católico. "I always want to remain grounded in community work. I’m a younger person. I have lot of years to continue to give back."

To work on improving community relations, Rochester Officer Manuel Ortiz organized a few of his officers to march in the parade and spent time at the festival, he said following the parade.

"This is the first time (RPD) has marched in the Puerto Rican Parade," he said. "We love the community we’re in."

Due to construction on East Main Street, the parade took a shorter route this year and marched up Plymouth Avenue to the festival site at Frontier Field’s VIP lot. More than 22,000 people attended the festival — with a record crowd of 8,800 festivalgoers on its second day, said Orlando Ortiz, festival president.

During opening ceremonies July 28, Monroe County Executive Cheryl DiNolfo declared it "Puerto Rican Heritage Day" in the county and the City of Rochester.

While the festival went off without any incidents or arrests on site, the Rochester Police Department reported 15 arrests after the event closed on Sunday evening in the northeast area of the city.

The police handled issues involving disorderly conduct and large caravans, according to information from RPD. Eleven traffic-related arrests were made along with four incidents of obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to Rochester police. Unique Kearse, 21, died from her injuries as a result of one of the accidents, according to Officer Jackie Shuman.

Donnell Evans of Rochester, who tries to attend the festival annually, said he had hoped there were be no incidents this year. He attended the parade and festival July 29 in honor of his grandmother, a Puerto Rico native who recently died.

"It has to stop," he said of the incidents after the festival. "You have to represent with pride … not with violence."

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