50 years of festivals: 2 men look back on all 50 Puerto Rican Festivals

August 18, 2019 03:50 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – With each note, pianist Victor Antonetti Jr. and his band, Orchestra Antonetti, loudly and proudly belted out Puerto Rican hits. 

In front of them is a sea of people, dancing to the beat, and, of course, waving their Puerto Rican flags.


But this is not Antonetti’s first Puerto Rican Festival--far from it. Most of the band, including Antonetti, have been playing for the festival's crowds since the event started 50 years ago.

When he was just 14 years old, Antonetti took over the band from his father, who started the group just after the festival’s first year.

Antonetti says his favorite part about performing is the people.

"You see a lot of the same faces, a lot of the older faces that come every year," Antonetti said.

Faces like Alfred Burgos'.

The owner of the Rochester-based Burgos Income Tax has been a familiar face at every single festival since its start. For the last several years, Burgos has hosted a dominos tournament for people of all ages.

"It’s just on a different scale now," Burgos said. "Everything's a little grander. It was a small scale festival."

A small scale festival which has grown to be what he says is one of the area's largest festivals.

As the festival has grown, one of the biggest changes has been the music Burgos says.

"Tomorrow we're gonna have traditional salsa music, which is music I enjoy,” Burgos said. “But my grandkids are here enjoying this music."

“Something a little bit more hipper, urban, so they can relate music-wise,” Antonetti said. “But the words still stay the same."

While the event has certainly changed between venues, music, and other things, both Burgos and Antonetti say that Puerto Rican pride has stayed the same.

"It's important for our children and for us to have that sort of unity," Burgos said.

"We are proud," Antonetti said. "Puerto Ricans are proud of being Puerto Rican."

That's something they both hope will keep rocking through the next 50 years.

Antonetti and Burgos added that they enjoy the mix of both Puerto Rican and other communities who attend the festival.

If you missed Saturday’s festivities, there’s still a chance to catch them Sunday.


Andrew Hyman

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