Puerto Rican and Ukrainian festivals kick-off in Rochester area

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The 51st Annual Puerto Rican Festival and the 49th Annual Ukrainian Festival were held in the Rochester area on Saturday, and organizers took different approaches to formatting and safety.

After canceling in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Puerto Rican Festival was held in person at La Marketa at the International Plaza on North Clinton Avenue and planned for about 2,000 people. The Ukrainian Festival was held in the parking lot behind St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Irondequoit, and it was a drive-through event for the second year in a row. The Ukrainian Festival had about 600 cars in 2020, and organizers were planning for about 300 Saturday.

Ukrainian Festival Chairman Andrew Hanushevsky explained why he and his team chose to do a drive-through event instead of a full in-person event this year.

"By May, we had to make a decision," Hanushevsky said. "And in May it didn’t… it wasn’t feasible to meet all the guidelines for COVID."

Before the Ukrainian Festival officially began at 1 p.m., there was already a line of cars ready for food.

"You pull through, someone takes your order, you pull up, you pay at the counter, and we deliver your food order for you, and that’s just a way of keeping everybody safe," Hanushevsky said.

By 7 p.m. at La Marketa, the crowd was on its feet dancing to Latin music, including music from headliner Miles Pena. Puerto Rican Festival-goers like Gerardo Molina think relocating the festival to La Marketa this year was good for the neighborhood.

"I’m glad they built [La Marketa] because it brings the community more closely together," Molina said. "It helps, you know, to get the crime out of the area."

Before the Puerto Rican Festival kicked off, some people in the neighborhood had voiced concerns about safety and COVID-19, considering the 14605 ZIP code where La Marketa is located has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Monroe County.

"Clinton was a bad area, you know, they’re building it up little by little," said Molina. "That’s a great thing because everybody sooner or later will be united."

Adrian Franco has been the on-stage host for the Puerto Rican Festival for the past six years. He agrees that having it in an area with a large Puerto Rican population makes sense.

"Overall, it’s part of our culture," Franco said. "Being in the neighborhood is part of the culture, and that’s one thing I do enjoy. To actually be in the neighborhood, and people are walking by and coming and joining, and I generally like that."

The Puerto Rican Festival will move to Parcel 5 for its second day on Aug. 21 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Ukrainian Festival is back on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Church on Ridge Road in Irondequoit.