Events to showcase Puerto Rican culture

ROCHESTER — This year’s Puerto Rican parade will march through downtown the weekend before the 44th-annual Puerto Rican Festival opens at Frontier Field.

Even though the festival and parade are coordinated by separate groups, the parade traditionally is held the second day of the festival, which this year is Aug. 10, said Orlando Ortiz, festival board president. But this year, organizers of the West Indian festival Carifest scheduled their annual parade for Aug. 10, so the Puerto Rican parade had to go with Aug. 3, explained Geena Cruz, parade president.

"We did our best to get everything on that (Aug. 10) date," she said. "So, it was this (Aug. 3 parade) or do two parades on the same day."

Every year the Puerto Rican Festival dates are based on the Red Wings home schedule at Frontier, Ortiz explained, which is why the Aug. 9-11 dates could not be changed.

All parties agreed that it would work best for the Puerto Rican parade to be held on Aug. 3, Cruz added.

The theme of this year’s parade is "Our Story — What is Yours," she noted.

"We’re describing what it is to be Puerto Rican," Cruz added. "We’re hoping others come and tell us their culture and who they are."

The parade begins with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. and will follow take a new route from Liberty Pole, down Main Street to Plymouth Avenue.

The usual route to Frontier has meant a boost in festival attendance during those early afternoon hours at the event’s site at Frontier’s VIP lot, Cruz and Ortiz agreed. So, festival organizers are hoping that the community will still come out Aug. 10 to have lunch and peruse the festival booths, Ortiz added.

"We are not going to get that rush, but we’re trying to brainstorm what else we can do to get people there," he said. "It is free time, and we want people to enjoy it."

During the week in between, a boxing match featuring Hector Camacho Jr. is set to take place at Frontier Field on Aug. 8 to keep up that festive atmosphere, said boxing promoter Mercedes Vazquez-Simmons.

"It’s pretty exciting," she said.

The festival also will offer youth boxing, "which has been a huge hit for us," noted Ortiz. "We want to continue doing that and showcasing the boxing and giving kids the opportunity to go out and have a lot of fun."

To keep those youths and festivalgoers safe, organizers will again enforce the policy that anyone under 17 must be accompanied by an adult to enter the festival, Ortiz said. Plus, the board will continue its collaboration with Pathways to Peace to encourage appropriate behavior from young attendees, he said.

"We want to continue sharing that message, to keep this as a (safe) family event," Ortiz noted.

The festival’s theme is "Our Cultural Heritage: Peace, Respect and Dignity." And the festival’s all-salsa lineup for its evening performances also is part of that heritage, Ortiz said. The headliners are Jerry Rivera, Ruben Blades and Oscar D’Leon.

"We’re very happy" about the lineup, he said. "From the feedback we’ve been receiving from the community, they’re very excited."

The organizers continue to work on enhancing the festival’s children’s area, which will include a zip line ride, Ortiz said. Additionally, the festival is partnering with the city’s "Rec on the Move" program to offer more hands-on activities, he added.

Also aimed at keeping the Latino community active, the Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz Memorial 5K Race & Fitness Walk continues to attract more runners and sponsors, Ortiz said. The race is named after his brother who died two years ago in Afghanistan.

"To keep (his) memory alive, it’s very important for us that the (race) goes well this year and in the future," he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about the 44th-annual Puerto Rican Festival, visit http://prfestival.com. For more information about the parade, visit http://rochesterpuertoricanparade.com.

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