Festival, parade will celebrate Latino community

ROCHESTER — This year’s 47th-annual Puerto Rican Festival will celebrate the evolution of the Latino community in Rochester, organizers say.

"Evolution of Our Culture" is the theme for the festival, which will be held Aug. 5-7 at Frontier Field’s VIP lot, said Leslie Rivera, vice president of the festival board.

"When we looked at where we are, the word evolution kept popping up," she said. "The community has evolved so much from the beginning of the festival 47 years ago to now. Paying homage to that evolution, to that growth, was important for us to do."

The theme also is reflected in this year’s musical lineup, Rivera said, which will include bachata, regatton and salsa.

"We have a couple older artists for the older generation, and new up-and-coming artists to attract the younger generation," Rivera said.

The performers will be: Bachata Heightz and Pena Suazo y la Banda Gorda on Aug. 5; George Lamond, Charlie Aponte and J Alvarez on Aug. 6; and Ismael Miranda will close the festival on Aug. 7.

Local performers also will represent the folkloric "música tipíca" of Puerto Rico, Rivera said.

The weekend is set to include the annual domino tournament, youth boxing and agency fair, she added.

Rivera said the festival board also has continued talks with the Rochester Police Department and other community groups to discourage any public loitering or property damage that has taken place in city neighborhoods away from the site after the end of the festival.

"We’re continuing to try and come up with creative ways to engage the public in peaceful activities after the festival," she said. "Through social media, through involvement in different community activities, we continue to foster that message."

One difference in this year’s festival will be the absence of the Staff Sergeant Javier Ortiz-Rivera 5K Run-Walk on the event’s second day. The race was held June 25 to increase participation, Rivera said, and to avoid conflicts with the annual parade.

Runners honor fallen soldiers 

The 12th-annual Puerto Rican Parade of Rochester will be held Aug. 6 beginning with a 10 a.m. ceremony at the Liberty Pole, said Wanda Martínez-Johncox, who is the new parade president.

The parade’s theme will be "One town, many voices," she said.

While float registration is ongoing, Martínez-Johncox said she hopes that as many towns in Puerto Rico as possible will be represented at the parade.

"We want people to show your pride, your flag, anything they have," she added. "The most important thing is we are looking forward to people having fun, learn about other pueblos … and learn about (their) community,"

To further represent that pride, the parade committee also chose two community pioneers to be grand marshalls of this year’s parade, she said. They are Hilda Rosario Escher, chief executive officer and president of Ibero-American Action League, and Belen Colón, a longtime community activist.

"We wanted to honor those who we sometimes forget," said Martínez-Johncox. "Without them, any of this stuff couldn’t happen."

The parade committee also will present the Father Tracy Award to Elena Goldfeder, former director of Casa Hispana at Nazareth College, during its Aug. 3 peace rally at Don Samuel Torres Park on North Clinton Avenue. Rivera said the festival committee also will participate in the peace rally as it has done in past years.

"We appreciate how much people have done and people continue doing for us to have an event like this," Martínez-Johncox remarked. "Not everybody can have a Puerto Rican parade. We are lucky and blessed."

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