Festival features record crowds, national acts

ROCHESTER — National salsa artists combined with sunshine and cool temperatures attracted record-breaking crowds to the 44th-annual Puerto Rican Festival.

Festival president Orlando Ortiz said that the crowd was double the usual number for opening night on Aug. 9, thanks to a performance from Jerry Rivera. Crowds totaled more than 25,000 during the three-day event at Frontier Field’s VIP lot, which topped last year’s attendance of 22,000.

Ruben Blades and Oscar D’Leon performed Aug. 10 and 11, respectively. On Aug. 10, several rows of lawn chairs were set up in the early afternoon to watch Blades.

"We were lucky and fortunate to offer this year that level of artists," Ortiz said. "It worked out well."

In addition to the music, entertainment included youth boxing, a domino tournament and performances from such local bands as Pleneros D’Borikén and Calle Uno as well as Borinquen Dance Theatre. The queen and princess from the Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester pageant also were on hand passing out candy to children as well as dancing with fellow pageant finalists.

Celisse Rivera, who was named pageant princess, also re-enacted a scene from the life of a slave during the Aug. 9 opening ceremony. Celisse, 17, researched the history of slavery in Puerto Rico during her pageant preparation.

The scene "represented life as a slave and that throughout all their struggles, they managed to bring out the best of life and accomplish their dreams," said the Irondequoit High School senior.

She said that being in the pageant has been a "blessing."

"I’m overwhelmed with joy," she said. "I want to inspire young Latino people in the community to succeed in life."

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