ROCHESTER — The 39th-annual Puerto Rican Festival at Frontier Field will honor local Hispanic soldiers, according to festival officials.
“We thought it’d be nice to dedicate the festival to them,” said Ida P√©rez, president of the festival board.
P√©rez added that on the first day of the Aug. 1-3 festival board members will unveil this year’s poster, which will pay tribute to all of the area’s Latino soldiers. Soldiers’ families also may bring photos of their loved ones to the festival and have them displayed, she said. P√©rez will step down this year as festival board president. Orlando Ort√≠z, currently the board’s treasurer, will be the new president.
The festival will take place at Frontier’s VIP lot, where it was held for the first time last summer following several years at the Civic Center Plaza, P√©rez noted. Last year’s turnout of about 13,000 people was bigger than in previous years, P√©rez said, and she attributes that to the new location plus the lineup of performers. Among this year’s performers will be Trio Los Andinos, Eddie Santiago, Tito Nieves and Johnny Rivera.
The festival theme will carry over to the festival-sponsored float in this year’s parade on Aug. 2, P√©rez added. The float will honor Latino soldiers, she said.
The parade will feature a new route — beginning at the Liberty Pole and continuing on East Main Street to North Plymouth Avenue where it will head north to the stadium — plus a return to highlighting Puerto Rican towns and Latino culture through floats, said Deacon Nemesio “Vell√≥n” Mart√≠nez, parade chairman.
The parade also will showcase a longstanding Latino family in Rochester, Deacon Mart√≠nez noted, with Luis Antonetti leading the parade as grand marshal.
The parade committee, which is sponsored by the Spanish Action Coalition, chose Antonetti because the grand-marshal honor is intended to recognize “a person in the community who has contributed greatly to the community,” Deacon Mart√≠nez said.
Not only is the Antonetti family well-known for its music — Orquesta Antonetti often plays locally and nationally — but family members have been cooking traditional meals and snacks at festival stands for many years, he added.
Luis and America Antonetti, married for 61 years, said that they both have siblings who are musical, which may be where son, Victor Sr., acquired his talent. Victor Sr. went on to form Orquesta Antonetti, which is now led by several of the Antonettis’ grandsons, including Victor Jr. America Antonetti’s brother, Miguel Angel Rosario, is a guitarist with the Spanish choir at Holy Apostles Church.
“They have kept the culture alive (in Rochester),” Deacon Mart√≠nez remarked.
“I’m very proud,” 84-year-old Luis Antonetti said of the grand-marshal honor during a recent interview at his Greece home. “Our children will walk with us.”
His son, Juan “Fran” Antonetti, said that the family is thrilled that its patriarch was chosen to lead this year’s parade.
“It’s like a blessing,” he said. “We’ve been here a long time and have gone through a lot.”
The Antonettis and their five children moved to Rochester from Salinas, Puerto Rico, in 1956 to find work and a better life. One infant daughter died in Puerto Rico before the move, and the couple went on to have three more children in Rochester. America Antonetti said that she traveled to Rochester with the children in December, and they arrived wearing no coats to face the harsh winter conditions of their new home. Her husband had made the trip alone a few months prior.
After 29 years of dealing with cold weather, the couple moved to Orlando, Fla., and lived there for 21 years, America Antonetti said. Luis Antonetti said that he worked for different companies during his 29 years in Rochester, including Gerber and Genesee Brewery. Before moving to Orlando, he worked 15 years as a bus driver for the Rochester City School District, his wife added.
“We were fleeing the cold,” Luis Antonetti said.
Since most of their children and grandchildren live in the Rochester area, the couple decided to move back to the area a couple of years ago.
Deacon Mart√≠nez said that the idea to have a grand marshal and parade floats helps boost the event’s resurgence that began four years ago. P√©rez said that the festival board appreciates the efforts of the parade committee and the Spanish Action Coalition — which work independently from the festival board — to bring back the parade to what it used to be.
“We are grateful that they have been willing to take on the task and have connected the dates,” she added.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Admission to the Puerto Rican Festival is $9 per day or $20 for all three days with free admission before 2 p.m.. For more information about the festival, call 585-234-7660. For information about the parade, call 585-232-4050.