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The Allentown Morning Call

Puerto Rican Day Parade Makes Triumphant Return

Thousands Turn Out In Bethlehem For Revival Of Annual Latino Event

By Chuck Ayers Of The Morning Call

June 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003
The Allentown Morning Call. All rights reserved. 

It's customary in Puerto Rico to embrace the fervor of celebrations and join in when a parade comes to town.

So Pedro Torrez felt right at home when Bethlehem's Puerto Rican Day Parade came past his second-floor apartment in the 700 block of E. Fourth Street Saturday morning.

He felt so at home that he grabbed his bongo drum and roommate William Rivera dusted off his cowbell and drum stick and the men united to create a playful sidewalk rhythm to an already festive parade.

Torrez and Rivera weren't alone in their enthusiasm. After taking a year off, the Puerto Rican Day Parade rebounded stronger than ever.

Headed by a new committee of leaders in the Puerto Rican Cultural Coalition, the parade of about 35 organizations on more floats than could be counted and more than 500 people paraded on Fourth Street on the South Side, across the Fahy Bridge and to City Hall where the city's first Latino councilman, Ismael Arcelay, addressed a throng of hundreds.

After a brief flag-raising ceremony, the crowd joined revelers for a festival under the Hill-to-Hill Bridge -- a significant change in venue that may have played a role in rejuvenating interest in the parade.

Organizers had debated whether to hold the festival again at Saucon Park, but selected the more central location that the city's non-Latino population might find easier.

"We opened the doors to the whole community," said Elvin Garcia, the newly installed president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Coalition. "This is what we do for the community."

While the day featured Puerto Rican culture, the festival this year is actually call Borinquenfest. The title is derived from the name native Taino Indians originally called Puerto Rico.

Thousands of spectators lined the parade route and many gathered for a view of the parade from the City Hall overlook as the parade crossed the Fahy Bridge.

All told, the festival featured eight performers of traditional and popular salsa music, 22 food and merchandise vendors and a museum of Puerto Rican artifacts and crafts.

Concern over unauthorized entry of vehicles into the parade driven by overzealous drivers prompted police and organizers to institute a system of permits to limit unruly participants.

Organizers said they were happy with the strong rebound and embrace of the day in the Latino Community.

"There's a lot of good things going on here," said Delia Riveria Diaz.

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