51st annual Puerto Rican Festival concludes Saturday night at Parcel 5

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — After having to cancel in 2020 because of the pandemic, Rochester’s Puerto Rican Festival took on a new format this year.

Instead of one weekend at Frontier Field like it has been in the past, it expanded to two weekends – the first at La Marketa International Plaza on North Clinton Avenue, and the second in the heart of downtown Rochester at Parcel 5.

About 2,000 people visited the festival at La Marketa. Parcel 5 had easily twice that many people in the crowd, as well as many more vendors and significantly more space to spread out. Among the people in the crowd was Monroe County Legislator Yversha Roman.

"I’m actually the first Latina elected to Monroe County legislature,” said Roman. “It’s a moment in time when we get to come together as a community and celebrate our culture, our cultura, our pride for our culture."

About halfway through the festival a short bout of rain hit downtown Rochester, but it didn’t seem to dampen any of the fun.

"We got rained on but we still out here definitely enjoying it,” said Vanessa Olivarria, who makes a tradition of visiting the festival every year. “We couldn’t do it last year, so we’re living it up this year, definitely."

Olivarria and others in the crowd told News10NBC’s Emily Putnam that they felt safe at the new location. About 30 security guards and a handful of Rochester Police officers monitored the area, which was closed off with barriers. Guards patted people down at the entrance, and guests had the chance to get a Covid shot.

"Monroe county was here for the pop-up clinic for vaccinations, definitely ensuring that folks have an opportunity to be vaccinated where they are in their community," said Yversha Roman.

While taking a break from dancing on the lawn, many people said the new location gave the festival a different feel, but they preferred it to previous locations.

"Why it’s different is because there’s more space and it’s really diverse,” said attendee Lateish Bodine. “It’s a lot of different ethnicities here so I think I like it better here."

“I think it’s a lot better,” said Olivarria. “It’s a lot more open area that everybody can walk around and actually have fun, the kids are running around having fun as well."

“I don’t want to go home!” said attendee Benjamin Hernandez while salsa dancing.

The festival ended at 10 p.m., and security gave the crowd until about 10:30 p.m. to move out of the area. There was a round of fireworks in the downtown area around 9:45 p.m. which took some people by surprise, but security guards said there were no incidents at the festival, and so far there have been no reported incidents following the festival either.