Organizers dream of growing Dominican celebration

ROCHESTER — Inclement weather may have prevented more people from attending the fourth-annual Dominican Family Day last month, but it won’t stop organizers from continuing efforts to realize their dream of creating an event as big as its predecessor at Brown’s Square Park.

More than four decades ago, the park adjacent to Frontier Field served as the site for the Puerto Rican Festival. That festival, which in recent years moved to Frontier’s VIP lot from a prior location at the Civic Center Plaza, draws thousands of people and presents national music acts.

"We’re starting plans already to try and make it bigger," Andy Duran, a member of the Hermanadad Socio Cultural Dominicana, said of the Dominican Family Day that took place Aug. 15. The group plans the annual August event to coincide with Restoration Day in the Dominican Republic, which is celebrated on Aug. 16. "We’re going to make it happen," Duran added.

Restoration Day is a national holiday and marks the day in 1863 when the island nation’s leaders restored the country’s independence from Spain.

This year’s local event included music from area bands including Bachata Imperio, DTP and Grupo Impress as well as a dominos tournament. A planned parade was scrapped when Rochester police officials wanted organizers to make the route shorter, Duran said. He added that the group hopes to work something out with the police department to ensure a parade takes place next year.

Despite the rain and lack of parade, though, more than 500 people did come out for the fourth-annual Family Day. Many of them brought lawn chairs to sit and listen to the music or just chatted with family and friends.

As he looked around the park Ramon Nolasco, who is from the Dominican Republic, remarked that he loved the event’s atmosphere.

I feel like I’m in the Dominican Republic," added Nolasco, whose wife, Lori, sang "Quisequeya," during the day’s opening ceremony.

Some of the festivalgoers said that the event has a lot of potential in light of the growth of the Dominican population locally. According to www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/MPI_Report_Dominican_Pop_US.pdf, Dominicans are the second-largest Latino group in the city, with the population projected to have increased 70 percent from 1,898 in 2000 to 2,679 this year.

Altagracia Volcy, also a Dominican native who has lived in Rochester for the past 15 years, said that for the festival to get bigger as did the Puerto Rican Festival, more of her people need to come out and support the organizers’ efforts.

"We may be fewer in number, but if my people in the community would unite," on Family Day, everyone would benefit, she added. "You feel good (being with) friends from your own country."

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