Rochester's Puerto Rican Festival marks 40th anniversary - Catholic Courier

Rochester’s Puerto Rican Festival marks 40th anniversary

ROCHESTER — In honor of the Puerto Rican Festival’s 40th anniversary, organizers have scheduled a diverse lineup of performers to represent the growing diversity of the local Hispanic population.

For example, a Bachata group, which is music native to the Dominican Republic, will perform a set during the three-day event that will run July 24-26 at Frontier Field’s VIP lot, said Orlando Ortiz, the new president of the festival’s board of directors. The musical acts also will include a Colombian group and a band playing older-style salsa music.

“Even though we’re called the Puerto Rican festival and we celebrate the Puerto Rican culture, there are more than just Puerto Ricans in Rochester,” he remarked. “The festival should embrace everybody.”

The festival — which is being held earlier than usual this summer due to the Rochester Red Wings’ August home schedule — also will feature several local dance companies including Borinquen Dance Theatre, Inikori Dance Studio and Olvidate Dance Co.

“Hopefully, they will showcase a different side of our culture,” Ortiz said.

A dominoes tournament, which Ortiz says gets bigger every year, will return this year, as will boxing. The board of directors also continued with its tradition of donating a festival booth to a city church — this year it’s Our Lady of the Americas Parish — which will keep the proceeds from sales of traditional Latin foods, Ortiz noted.

“We definitely like to give back to the community as much as we can,” he said. “They put in the work and get to keep the rest.”

The collaboration between the festival board and the board for the festival parade also has been a boon for the festival the last few years, Ortiz remarked. The parade will once again end at the festival site on July 25 and performers from the floats will have time to use the stage, he said.

Angel Alicea, the parade board’s community chairman, said that he has been reaching out to the community to have this year’s floats represent the 78 towns of Puerto Rico. As of mid-June, a dozen towns are scheduled to be represented, he added. This year’s parade theme is “Conozcamos Nuestros Pueblos” (“We Know Our Towns”).

“We are looking at a way of using the parade as a tool to teach the community,” he said. “Some of the towns are going to be showing off their own town flags. It’s going to be a great opportunity with the theme this year.”

As the new festival president, Ortiz said that he is not planning to alter much based on the success of last year’s events that attracted more than 20,000 people. He spent time last summer shadowing outgoing president Ida P√©rez to learn as much as possible about festival operations.

“We’ll see how things go when the festival board and I decide what changes to make next year,” added Ortiz, who encourages anyone who attends to e-mail him with feedback, positive or negative, at

Ortiz has experience with event planning, personally and from his fraternity days at Rochester Institute of Technology. Members of Lambda Alpha Upsilon focus a lot of their time on community service, he said, and he organized various volunteer opportunities for the fraternity.

Fraternity members also have served as festival volunteers and this year will run the children’s activities, including floatable slides, as well as help man the entrance area. Ortiz began as a festival volunteer and has served on the board of directors for the past five years.

While organizing the festival this year, Ortiz also has been helping plan his own wedding, which was scheduled for the end of June.

“I’m used to having a ton on my plate,” he remarked.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Festival admission is $9 per day for adults, $5 for senior citizens and children, and free for children younger than 5. Three-day passes are available for $20. For more information, call 585-234-7660 or e-mail

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