This weekend, the island feel returns to Rochester.
The 40th annual Puerto Rican Festival, one of the longest-running ethnic events in western New York, will take place from Friday, July 24, to Sunday, July 26, at the Frontier Field VIP parking lot.
"We're very proud of this milestone," says festival president Orlando Ortiz, 27. "We're fortunate to have very good support from the community and nearby cities."
This year the festival will diversify one of its trademark elements - the dance music.
"The past few years it's been strictly salsa music," says Ortiz, who volunteers as president. "Now we'll also have merengue, bachata and others. We're trying to cater to different Latino populations, not just Puerto Rican."
Variety will also be reflected in the musical headliners, most notably Andy Andy, a recording artist from the Dominican Republic. As a result, Ortiz has received ticket orders from as far away as Maryland.
Other highlights include a parade on Saturday, July 25, titled "Recordando Nuestros Pueblos (Remembering Our Hometowns)," with an appearance by Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester.
Monroe County is home to the second largest population of Hispanics in New York state.
For members of Rochester's Puerto Rican community, the festival is like coming home.
"It's nostalgic," says Ortiz, who moved to Rochester from Puerto Rico when he was 10. "When I was growing up, it was like a family reunion. It's the only time some of the families see each other."
But of the nearly 21,000 people who attend the three-day festival each year, the majority are not Latin American - and that's a good thing, Ortiz says.
"The festival gives us the ability to showcase our food, our music, our art and our culture," he says. "We like to say, ‘This is who we are. Come and enjoy the festival with us.' "