Due to a change in this year’s festival format, festivities kicked off a week prior at the International Plaza in Rochester and featured an opening ceremony, vendors and live music by such performers as Miles Peña.
The celebration also featured such traditional Puerto Rican food as pinchos, or large skewers of meat and vegetables; empanadas filled with a variety of meats; and the dessert, limber, or shaved ice.
While this year’s festivities did not include a parade, which would traditionally start downtown at the Liberty Pole, participants were able to gather at Parcel 5 across the street from the pole to celebrate. The lot provided space for numerous food trucks, such as ROC Empanadas, Kona Ice and Robskabobs; inflatable courses; and a grassy area to allow for the placement of lawn chairs.
Regardless of the showers, residents clapped, sang and danced along to the live music provided by such groups as Ellas, which made their debut at the festival; local DJ Mambo; and the Chiquito Team Band, the festival’s headliner.
“Sigimos?” Mambo asked the crowd about continuing.
“Si,” replied the crowd.
“Paramos?” Mambo asked the crowd about stopping.
“No,” the crowd responded.
Although they were wet, some festivalgoers like Jamie Pérez came when the festival opened at 2 p.m. and planned to stay until the end to see the headliner.
“It’s my first time (attending the festival), but it’s nice, and I am having fun,” Pérez said.
In addition to entertainment, festivalgoers also had a chance to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Upon entering Parcel 5, individuals could visit the Monroe County Vaccine Vehicle located just to the right of the entrance. Members of the Northeast Safety Committee also were present to patrol the area, and sanitizing stations were located throughout the festival area.
Consequently, individuals like Maritza Mendez said she had no concerns in attending the festival and would have attended the first day as well if she had been in town that weekend.
“I like it,” said Mendez, who was accompanied by her teenage daughter, Dayna Motta.
The two said they enjoyed the music and are looking forward to moving to the area soon. According to Mendez, the family currently lives in Ohio but is moving to Rochester because of its large Puerto Rican community.