Food, music and culture draw thousands to Puerto Rican Festival

 

 

The 48th Annual Puerto Rican Festival filled the Frontier Field VIP Parking Lot with plenty of good vibes on Saturday.

“The energy here is all so positive,” said Kenneth Cruz of Rochester, sporting a bright red, white and blue Puerto Rican flag T-shirt. The 19-year-old was born in San Juan and his family makes an annual tradition of attending the festival. “Everyone here is all smiles, there’s dancing and so much good energy. You’ve got to be in a good mood if you come here.”

Hundreds of people packed the festival Saturday afternoon to enjoy children’s games, midway contests, food and music. In the shade of a party tent, families grouped at tables enjoying plates heaped with empanadas, chicharron, alcapurrias, platanos and pernil. Meanwhile, spontaneous salsa dancing broke out all throughout the crowds near the stage and vendor booths, spurred on by the infectious drums and horns of the La Muralla orchestra.

For Angel Rivera, attending on Saturday with his two daughters, son and nephew meant a two-hour drive in from Utica. While his kids took turns trying to knock a young lady off her perch in a dunking booth, Rivera said he took the trip because there are no similar cultural festivals in his community.

“It’s nice to see something like this go on,” he said. “You just don’t see things like this in Utica.”

The main attraction, he said, was the food.

“Oh, the empanadas were really good,” he said.

Cruz, who had the bacalaitos (fried codfish fritters) agreed that the food was a main draw.

“They are a little greasy and unhealthy, but oh, so good,” he said.

The Puerto Rican Festival is the longest-running ethnic festival in Monroe County and celebrates the culture and heritage of the region’s Puerto Rican and Hispanic population.

“It is so important to bring the community together to spread light and unite all the people, Puerto Rican, hispanic, black, white everyone can come here and spend time with their family and have fun,” said Keysha Matos, of Rochester, the 2017 Miss Puerto Rico Rochester Queen.

She won her title at a pageant held earlier this month that focused on cultural knowledge and representation. One thing many people don’t know about Puerto Rico? “That even though we are all Puerto Ricans, you can be from Mexico, or Guatemala or anywhere, We are all Latinos and share the same blood, we are all family.”

Julisa Quinones is this year’s Miss Puerto Rico Rochester Red Princess. For her, the festival is an opportunity to show the larger community all the colors of Puerto Rican heritage.

“We get to express our culture, show our talents, and share our food,” she said.

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