ROC Rewind 2020: Looking back at the most memorable local moments of the year

Local News

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Well here we are. After the year which often felt like a decade, 2020 is finally coming to a close.

Much of this year has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic — locally, nationally, beyond — but there were other important moments that this community will not soon forget, and some others we’d rather not remember.

Here’s a look back at some of those memorable moments from the year that was in our region, in chronological order:

ROC Rewind 2020

January 2 — Bail reform laws questioned after Tyquan Rivera, man who shot RPD officer in 2009, released from custody

It didn’t take long for New York state’s controversial new bail reform laws to become — well, controversial.

Tyquan Rivera, the man convicted of shooting Rochester Police officer Anthony DiPonzio in 2009, was released from custody after new bail reform laws took effect. Rivera was arrested on drug charges a few weeks prior, before the new bail reform laws were implemented, but once they were, he was released.

Rivera would be arrested again in October, in possession of fentanyl, crack, cocaine, and $11,000 in cash.


January 7 — Comedian Jim Gaffigan asks Rochester where to get a plate, a divided city responds

Few things divide our city more than debating which hots establishment has the best plate. That contention was on full display earlier this year after comedian Jim Gaffigan tweeted:

As you could imagine, there was no shortage of replies, but the comedian ultimately settled on the original iteration from Nick Tahou’s when he came to town for a standup performance.

Gaffigan’s interest in the Flower City’s cuisine staple didn’t end there. He would later describe the experience, with in-depth detail, as a guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

“Obviously there’s no health department in Rochester, but it was delicious,” Gaffigan said.

Again, it didn’t stop there. His enthusiasm for plates continued into quarantine. Donning a Zweigle’s hat and apron, and with Wegman’s hash browns and Don’s Original meat hot in hand, the comedian showed his followers how to make a garbage plate during a May episode of his internet kitchen show, Let’s Get Cookin,’ 

We hereby decree Jim Gaffigan as an honorary Rochesterian for his devotion to plates.


January 9 — Amtrak crosses new Genesee arch bridge at Letchworth for first time

History was made early this year in a moment that was quintessentially John Kucko.

An Amtrak engine crossed over the new Genesee Arch Bridge at Letchworth State Park for the first time ever.

Prior to the installation of the new bridge, it was rare to see an Amtrak cross the old 1875 trestle there. The locomotive was heading toward Hornell’s Alstom plant, where workers have been working on the Amtrak “passenger cars of the future.”


January 23 — Barry’s Old School Irish owners invited to McGregor fight in Las Vegas

2020 wasn’t all bad: Just ask Danny and Jessica Barry, the owners of Barry’s Old School Irish Pub in Webster.

Danny and Jessica were longtime fans of UFC superstar Conor McGregor, and McGregor’s Irish Whiskey label, Proper 12. That relationship was taken to the next level when McGregor’s manager called the pub owners and invited them for a VIP experience in Las Vegas for McGregor’s fight against Donald Cerrone.

McGregor won, convincingly, and the local MMA fans got a once-in-a-life-time experience.

“We have three little kids at home, so VIP in Vegas thing is not a normal day for us,” Danny said.


February 6 — The Jack Rabbit, Seabreeze’s iconic coaster, turns 100 years old this year

When the iconic Jack Rabbit opened a century ago, it was the fastest roller coaster in the world — now it’s a piece of American history.

Built in 1920, the Jack Rabbit is the nation’s oldest continuously operating roller coaster, according to Seabreeze officials. Additionally, it’s tied for fourth place in the world for the same category, according to the National Amusement Park Historical Association. In 2010, the thrill ride was included in a CBS News list of the five best roller coasters in the country.

Although the centennial celebration for the coaster didn’t go as originally intended (more on that in a bit, but spoiler: Coronavirus), Sea Breeze officials say they have postponed celebratory activities for when guests can return safely to the amusement park.

(Seabreeze Amusement Park photo)

February 13 — Student protests at SUNY Brockport as tension swirls on campus

After SUNY Brockport’s Chief Diversity Officer was fired, tension escalated at the college earlier this year. Here’s a brief summary of events after the controversial firing:

Unrelated to the aforementioned events, the school also dropped the moniker “College at Brockport” in favor of its former title “SUNY Brockport” for the official title.


February 29 — Homes frozen over along Lake Erie in Western New York

A leap year surprise for folks living along Lake Erie in Hamburg, New York. Waterfront homes that turned into a scene akin to Narnia.

After 48 hours of battering winds, nature’s conditions created an otherworldly scene:


March 11 — 1st confirmed case of COVID-19 in Monroe County

And so it began. Ten days after New York state’s first documented cases of coronavirus, Monroe County reported its first case in a man who flew into New York City from Rome, Italy. He then took a bus to Rochester.

This jumpstarted the pandemic locally, and events began to be canceled, including Rochester’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which was to be held just two days after the initial COVID-19 case was reported. Soon, concerts, sporting events, and gatherings would be canceled as well as the community waited for what was to come with so little known about the virus.


March 13 & 14 — State of emergency declared in Monroe County after 2nd COVID-19 case, Monroe County schools close indefinitely

It was on a late Friday night in March when the second local COVID-19 case was confirmed. Less than 12 hours later, on a Saturday morning, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello declared a state of emergency.

The second COVID-19 case resulted in the first local hospitalization from the virus, and the patient was a teacher at Greece Arcadia Middle School. During that state of emergency press conference, Greece Central School District Superintendent Kathleen Graupman announced all GCSD schools would be closed until further notice.

Just hours later, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced that all public schools in the county would be closed, beginning the following Monday, which signaled the beginning of a very strange stretch of time for most.


March 17 — Family of 1st COVID-19 patient to die locally: ‘It’s not a joke’

The pandemic soon escalated in Monroe County, about a week after the first documented case, when 54-year-old Alvin Simmons became the first local resident to die from COVID-19.

In just a matter of days, Simmons — an Army veteran and father of two — had experienced light symptoms, then was hospitalized, then put on life support before he ultimately passed.

“We couldn’t even see him. We saw him today after we pulled the plug on him — by video conference,” said Michelle Wilcox. Simmons’ sister.

At this time, there was still so much unknown about the disease, but this emotional tipping point in the community made it abundantly clear how dangerous COVID-19 was.


March 18 — Toilet paper a scarcity as Wegmans limits number of items customers can buy

The pandemic immediately changed the lives of many. From schools and businesses shuttering, to conceptualizing the idea of social distancing, but the virus also changed how people grocery shopped.

Wegmans instituted new hours, cleaning policies, and restrictions on the number of items that people could buy. One of the most popular images of the early stages of the coronavirus was empty shelves at Wegmans in the toilet paper aisle.

Wegmans also put limits on other items like baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning products.

“There’s no need to buy 100 rolls of toilet paper,” Gov. Cuomo said during one of his briefings in March. “Where would you even put 100 rolls of toilet paper?”


March 21 — Gov. Cuomo issues executive order to close barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors and more

Another early theme of the pandemic was a general lack of grooming for most. Many will recall having or seeing longer hair than they were used to, and that all started on March 21 when Gov. Cuomo announced the state-mandated closure of barbershops, hair salons, and tattoo and piercing studios.

The order also includes other personal care related services, like nail technicians, cosmetologists, estheticians, electrolysis, and laser hair removal services.

As the pandemic worsened statewide, the governor’s office took a more active and direct approach to restrictions for non-essential businesses, instead of leaving those decisions to local municipalities.


March 27 — Cinema Theater provides moment of levity

Life was changing fast because of the pandemic, and for most, those changes weren’t for the better. All of those changes made opportunities for humor even more important.

Thankfully, the good folks at the Cinema Theatre at the corner of South Goodman and South Clinton in Rochester were always ready and willing to step up their funny game with humorous marquee signage.

This one in particular was well received on social media:


April 7 — Preparing for COVID-19 death surge, Monroe County says tractor-trailers will be used to store bodies

Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, Monroe County officials said in early April that tractor-trailers would be used to store bodies, if necessary.

Officials said the decision was due to the pandemic, which limited the number of funerals a funeral home could conduct at a time, causing a delay in funerals with an anticipated increase in local deaths.

“64 bodies can fit on each tractor-trailer,” county officials said. “People who die from COVID-19, as well as those who die from non-COVID-19 related reasons, can be stored on the tractor-trailers.”


April 9 — Rochester summer takes a hit as festivals cancel

One after another, after another, after another.

Rochester’s annual summer festival season, cherished by many as the pinnacle of Flower City living, could not bear the weight of the coronavirus. The Lilac Festival was canceled, then the Jazz Festival, then Corn Hill Arts Festival, and then Park Ave. Fest — which was still five months away when the cancellation was announced. Not long after, virtually all large summer gatherings were impacted.

This was a sign that not only was the summer going to be lacking in events, but that organizers were anticipating a longer pandemic than some were hoping for.

Some festivals, like the Jazz Festival, announced rescheduled dates for the fall, but as we know now, the rescheduled events never took place.


April 15 — Gov. Cuomo mandates all New Yorkers wear masks in public

With the COVID-19 death toll in New York approaching 12,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that required all New Yorkers to wear masks in public whenever six feet of social distancing could not be possible.

Although masks now seem commonplace, at the time, New York was the first state to require masks in public.

“A reality check; there are still some 2,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York each day,” Gov. Cuomo said. “‘We’re out of the woods,’ no we’re not. We’re in the woods. The good news is, great news is, that we can control the spread.”


April 18 — Golf courses allowed to reopen across New York

Normalcy? Not entirely, but golf courses getting the green light to reopen was a big first step in doing … well, anything.

Unlike other industries, it was a constant back and forth for golf courses. Initially, golfers were treated to an early spring that allowed many courses to welcome more golfers in March than at any time in recent history. Then on March 22, golf courses were closed when they were not deemed essential business by the governor’s initial executive order. 

Later that week, courses opened back up and were allowed to operate with social distancing provisions. On April 9, courses were closed once again after they were explicitly listed in the list of non-essential businesses. Then nine days later they were allowed to operate once more.

Scrambling for par, for sure.


April 27 — A dozen people gather at ‘Reopen Rochester’ protest

Not everyone was OK with government-enforced shutdowns due to the pandemic.

About a dozen protesters from a group called “Reopen Rochester” gathered outside the Pittsford Wegmans to demonstrate against the forced closures.

Some wore masks, others didn’t. Some stood six feet apart while other’s didn’t. They argued that the viral spread couldn’t be totally prevented and opted for business as usual while nature took its course.

Since then there’s been a number of local “reopen” protests, ranging wildly in attendance numbers.


May 1 — Gov. Cuomo: Schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, after they had already been shuttered for weeks.

“We don’t think it’s possible to do that [reopen] in a way that will keep our children, students, educators safe so we’re going to have our schools remain closed through the end of the year,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The decisions on the education system are obviously critically important. We must protect our students.

With schools officially closed, the governor told districts to turn their attention to the fall, and come up with plans for which they could reopen safely at that time.


May 6 — Three Rochester staples reopen for takeout: ‘It’s do or die right now’

Before the phased reopening plan began, local restaurants began scrambling to create some revenue.

After being closed since mid-March, Harry G’s, the Highland Park Diner, and Balsam Bagels were three of the first local favorites to reopen for takeout, curbside pick-up and/or delivery. While many national chains had the infrastructure to quickly adapt to losing indoor dining capacity, local eateries had to adjust on the fly, with little guidance, and smaller operating budgets.

Few industries have been hit harder by the pandemic than the food-service industry, but local support helped many Rochester restaurants survive so far, while many could not navigate the financial uncertainty brought about by COVID-19.


May 9 — Rochester breaks record low temperature as snow falls in early May

On what would have been the second day of the Lilac Festival, Rochester set a record low temperature for May 9 when it reached 29 degrees.

The previous record low for May 9 was 31 degrees, set in 1962.

It wasn’t just cold, but a decent amount of snowfall too. Perhaps it was Mother Nature’s way of telling us to stay inside and maintain social distancing?


May 11 — Rochester, Finger Lakes region gets green light to begin reopening

Exactly two months after Monroe County’s first confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered a briefing from Irondequoit to announce the Rochester and Finger Lakes region would be among the first in the state to qualify for phase one of reopening under New York’s guidelines.

“It’s an exciting new phase, we’re all anxious to get back to work, we want to do it smartly we want do it intelligently, but we want to do it,” Gov. Cuomo said.

Phase one allowed for some industries to resume operation, including construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, retail (with curbside pickup), agriculture, forestry, and fishing.

While restrictions were still in place, it was a big step in a return to (somewhat) normalcy for local businesses and residents.


May 12 — Drive-by parades replace traditional celebrations, gatherings

Celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and other milestones became impossible because of the coronavirus. So a new popular process emerged: The drive-by parade.

One example of the many local parades over the past year was on May 12 when there was a tremendous show of support for Rochester’s own “Harmonica Pete” DuPre, a World War II veteran celebrating his 97th birthday:


May 29 — Rochester, Finger Lakes region advances to phase two of reopening

The Rochester and Finger Lakes region was one of five statewide that first advanced to phase two of reopening, which signaled the long-awaited return of hair cuts.

Businesses allowed to reopen in phase included barbershops/hair salons, commercial buildings, retail rental, repair, and cleaning, auto dealerships/rentals, offices, general retail (with restrictions); and real estate.

“I feel confident that we can rely on this data and the five regions that have been in phase one can now move to phase two because that data has been reviewed and the experts say to us it’s safe to move forward because people have been smart and you haven’t seen the spike,” Gov. Cuomo said.


May 30 — Widespread looting preceded by cars set on fire, tear gas deployed at violent rally in Rochester

What started as a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Rochester on a Saturday afternoon ended with vehicles on fire, tear gas deployed, police cars being vandalized, and more destruction.

The rally coincided with similar events that had been going on in cities around the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Ultimately, more than 20 people were arrested, some still facing federal arson charges, and the imagery of that day remains on the minds of many in Rochester.


June 2 — Rochester radio hosts of ‘Kimberly and Beck’ fired after racist on air comments

Controversial local radio hosts Kimberly Ray and Barry Beck, of Kimberly and Beck on 95.1 FM were fired after by iHeartRadio following racist commends made during a broadcast.

During Tuesday’s show, Kimberly was talking about the beating of a woman Saturday night and asked if the black men involved were — in her words — acting “N-word-ly.”

Ray didn’t use the actual N-word, but said “N-wordly.”

This came one day after the company that owns 95.1, iHeartRadio, wrote on Twitter: “We believe the only way to drive lasting positive change is for people to come together, respect differences, listen to all voices and foster understanding.”

The Kimberly and Beck show is not new to controversy. Back in March, when the coronavirus was just beginning to hit Monroe County — during a segment on if the virus was “overhyped” — Beck said COVID-19 was ““the KKK of diseases,” and then said “white people matter.”

The pair was also fired from their previous station back in 2014 for “hateful remarks against the transgender community.”


June 3 — Outdoor dining at restaurants resumes in time for summer

Just in time for some summer weather, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that outdoor dining at restaurants would be allowed under phase two of New York state’s reopening guidelines.

“Thanks to the people of New York and the nurses, doctors and essential workers, today we have the lowest number of hospitalizations ever and we have the lowest death toll ever,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We are continuously evaluating activities that can be safely reopened, and today we are adding outdoor seating at restaurants to phase two.”

Outdoor tables were to be spaced six feet apart, and all staff wear mandated to wear face coverings, while customers were required to wear face coverings when not seated.


June 6 — Brad Paisley surprises local best friends who asked people to ‘relax and have a beer’

It was a simple offer during tense times in America: “Black or white, relax and have a beer.”

Best friends of different races, Benjamin Smith and Marcus Ellis set up in their driveway hoping people would stop by. Turns out, they were in for so much more than that — a digital visit from country music star Brad Paisley.

“Man, I am so thrilled to meet you, face to face like this,” Paisley said. “I’m so inspired by you, and we thought we should deliver more beer than you could possibly drink … This is going to be a popular destination on this street.”

Hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of beer shipped directly to their house just hours before the Zoom call. Paisley bought out all of the the Bud, Bud Light, and Budweiser at AJ’s Beer Warehouse in Henrietta.

Paisley would later feature Smith and Ellis in his “No I in Beer” music video.


June 11 — Rochester, Finger Lakes region advancing to phase three of reopening

As the coronavirus situation improved in New York, the Rochester and Finger Lakes region continued to meet the criteria to advance reopening phases.

Phase three brought the return of indoor dining, personal care businesses such as tattoo and piercing facilities, massage therapy and spas, nail specialty, tanning establishments and more.

“This overall situation, I don’t know how to say it, we need caution,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We have to beware, we need warnings, you take your pick. The numbers are good, everything we’ve done has been exactly right up until now.”


June 19 — Gov. Cuomo in final daily briefing after 111 straight days: ‘Love wins, always’

Through weekends and holidays, the governor never took a day off from his coronavirus briefings for the first 111 days of the pandemic in New York.

With the virus becoming increasingly contained statewide, the governor announced his final briefing, which was a 12 minute segment from his office, speaking directly to New Yorkers.

“Thank you to all the people who sent me letters, and tweets, and wave on the street or give a thumbs up,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I can’t express how much it means to me; your energy keeps me going. “To the 59 million viewers who shared in these daily briefings, thank you,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt. Thank you for believing in me and giving me support — good Lord knows I needed it, and don’t worry I’m not going anywhere.

“Today we have done a full 180 from worst to first,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We are controlling the virus better than any state in the country, and any nation on the globe. We have the lowest weekly infection rate, less than 1%, and we have the lowest weekly average of lives lost.

“We showed that in the end, love does win,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Love does conquer all, that no matter how dark the day gets, love brings the light. That it what I will take from the past 111 days and it inspires me.”

Though not a daily occurrence, the governor has continued his briefings as necessary throughout the year.


June 24 — Phase four Friday: No gyms, malls or theaters yet, but social gatherings and religious services expanded

The Rochester, Finger Lakes region became one of the first in the state to advance to phase four reopening under New York’s guideliness.

Phase four marked the final phase of the reopening process, which covered guidance for arts, entertainment, recreation, and education.

However, not all businesses and organizations previously believed to fall under phase four will be allowed to open on the first day of which — until further notice. Malls, gyms, casinos, movie theaters, and amusement parks will not reopen on the first day of phase four, but will have to wait for further guidance.

While those businesses would remain closed when phase four began, other areas of recreation, including museums, aquariums and zoos will be allowed to reopen, with safety precautions in place.

Other phase four guidelines included expanding the allowed size of social gathering from 25 people to 50 people, and expanding attendance of religious services from 25% capacity to 33%.


June 29 — Railroad Street businesses to close traffic and create outdoor recreation space near Rochester Public Market

Rochester neighborhoods got creative in maximizing the available outdoor space for customers, like the Railroad Street district near the Public Market.

Businesses there closed off traffic to create an “extended outdoor pedestrian-friendly food and beverage space.” Businesses working collaboratively together there included Black Button Distiling, Rohrbach Brewing Company, Boxcar Donuts, Katboocha, Bitter Honey, and the Object Maker.


July 8 — After months of being closed, area malls excited to reopen

It’s no secret that the rise of online shopping has hurt business activity at brick and mortar stores, including malls, but when these retail destinations finally got the green light to reopen, consumers were excited.

Malls in phase four regions could reopen with approved HVAC systems in place. And although all retailers weren’t ready right on launch day, some shoppers were happy just to be able to get out and walk through the mall again, and businesses were excited for some long-awaited traffic.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, it’s been about four months that we’ve been closed, so we’re obviously thrilled to get opened and our merchants are really excited they’ve been very anxious to get the doors open,” said Eastview General Manager Mike Kauffman.


July 13 — Frederick Douglass International: Effort to rename Rochester’s airport picks up steam with county support

This summer saw many monuments and statues with racial ties to history being torn down and replaced.

An online petition locally kicked-off a movement to rename the Greater Rochester International Airport after one of the city’s most celebrated historical residents: Frederick Douglass.

The name changed was submitted with bipartisan support from the Monroe County Legislature, and then endorsed by County Executive Adam Bello. About a month later, the legislature would authorize the airport’s name change, and now it just waits FAA approval for it to become official.


July 14 — Gov. Cuomo’s coronavirus poster art explained: Cartoon timeline of pandemic in New York

As New York’s handling of the pandemic continued to improve, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a poster during a public briefing that loosely depicted the state’s coronavirus story.

“They will be talking about what we did for decades to come,” Gov. Cuomo said. “It really was a historic moment. Personally traumatic, socially traumatic, and historic.”

The shape of the curve resembled the governor’s previously-used model of Mount Marcy, used to demonstrate the state’s curve of the virus over time since the first confirmed case on March 1. It featured many small details, including projection models, “Economy Falls,” a timeline, early stages, mountain summit, reopening, and a final descent.

Click the link above for detailed explainer. If you’d like a copy of the New York Tough poster for yourself, you can pre-order a purchase online.


July 16 — 30 people arrested after protest against Mayor Warren’s anti-gathering emergency order

Following a spike in gun violence, with 70 shootings from June 1 through mid-July in the City of Rochester, Mayor Lovely Warren issued an emergency order that restricted outdoor gatherings from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m.

This emergency order was met by protesters, who on the same night organized an event called “F— your curfew” on Facebook.

The group marched from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park to the area of East Avenue and Alexander Street before returning, where they remained in the park for several hours, according to the Rochester Police Department.

Ultimately 30 people were arrested and charged with violating New York State Executive Order Law, a class B misdemeanor, and were issued appearance tickets returnable to Rochester City Court at a later date.


July 17 — Breweries get creative in response to Gov. Cuomo’s new restaurant guidance on alcohol, food service

Remember when “Cuomo chips” were all the rage this summer?

The governor’s office issued guidance on alcohol service that required a food order to go along with it. It was murky at first as to what constituted as “substantive food,” including some confusion over chicken wings, but bars and restaurants were quick to get creative with their menus in order to sustain alcohol sales.


July 21 — New York expands coronavirus travel advisory, more states impacted

As the coronavirus loosened its grip in the northeast, the virus tightened throughout the south and midwest over the summer. Once the epicenter of the pandemic, New York state saw some of the lowest infection rates nationwide during the warmer months.

In an effort to prolong the virus return, New York state joined Connecticut and New Jersey for a tri-state coronavirus travel advisory, which required incoming travelers from states with high infection rates to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Travelers who failed to do so could face up to a $10,000 fine.

The list of impacted states updated every Tuesday throughout the summer, but eventually the three states who formed the advisory, began meeting the criteria for which it to be enforced, rendering it useless as the virus swung back into focus after the fall.


July 28 — Kodak lands $765M federal loan to develop prescription drug ingredients, aims to add 300 jobs in Rochester

A big development for a former film powerhouse in Rochester. Federal officials joined leaders from Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester this summer to announce an agreement for a $765 million federal loan to support the launch of Kodak Pharmaceuticals — a new arm of the company that poses to transform the business into an industry leader in prescription drug manufacturing.

“This is going to be one of the greatest second acts in American industrial history,” said Dr. Peter Navarro, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy at the White House.

Officials said this move will add 360 direct jobs for the company, plus an additional 1,200 indirectly, including some 300 here in Rochester where the company was founded by George Eastman in the late 1880s.

The move caused drastic stock fluctuation for Kodak, which prompted an SEC investigation, but as of early December, the Wall Street Journal reported there had been no evidence of any wrongdoing, which prevent the agreement from happening.


August 1 — Back the Blue Ride & Rally attracts thousands: ‘These are the people we rely on when we need help’

While communities across the country were dealing with protests on police brutality, there were also widespread demonstrations of support from law enforcement, including this summer rally in Scottsville which drew thousands of attendees.

“It’s important for the police department to see that they have a lot of support,” said Bill Centola, an attendee. “We need something like this. There’s too much going around in the world, it’s crazy, and there’s no respect for the police. When I heard about this rally I wanted to be part of it.”

This was just one of the more-highly attended demonstrations in a series of local Back the Blue events this summer.


August 5 — Dozens of Rochester firefighters show up to help gravely ill colleague fix his home

A Rochester firefighter injured on the job, who then became gravely ill, was in desperate need of repairs to his home.

Due to his debilitating condition, RFD Lt. Steve Kelly can’t do his landscaping, fix his windows, or put up siding. Those, by the way, are just some of the things he needed done.

He had some extra helping hands Wednesday as 60-70 of his fellow firefighters came with donated supplies and muscle.

All of the materials were donated by community businesses, including B & L Wholesale SupplyAllied Building ProductsBeacon Building, and Rochester Colonial

“It’s important that the community always knows that when you need us, we are there. And we’re there because we want to be. I’m proud to be a part of it. That’s all you can be, I’m proud to be a part of it, and I’m proud to be here to help my friend today,” said RFD Lt. John Peckham.


August 7 — Back to school: Gov. Cuomo gives New York state districts green light to reopen in September

In an announcement that many teachers, parents, and students eagerly awaited, Gov. Cuomo said in early August that New York state schools could reopen in September. At that point, New York had fallen off as the epicenter of the pandemic, and had one of the lowest infection rates in the country.

“By our infection rate, all school districts can open everywhere in the state every region is below the threshold that has been established,” Cuomo said. “If you look at our infection rate, we’re in the best situation in the country. If anyone can open schools, we can.”

Over the summer, each school district submitted a reopening proposal to the New York State Department of Education, pending approval to move forward. In early August, those districts received that approval.

Some districts opted for remote-learning only, like the Rochester City School District, while others laid out a hybrid model that combined remote and in-person instruction.

While there was concern then, schools have proven to be one of the sections of society that maintains a low transmission rate of the virus.


August 10 — Rapper Kanye West photographed in a SUNY Brockport hoodie

Kanye West could be labeled as a lot of things: Rapper, music producer, pop-culture figure, fashion designer, and presidential candidate to name a few.

One label that didn’t apply until this summer was “Golden Eagle.”

West was photographed sporting a SUNY Brockport hoodie while exiting a plane; photos that the college’s official Twitter account shared shortly thereafter:

At the time, West was embroiled in a controversial presidential campaign, so the college issued this statement:

“SUNY Brockport in no way endorses Mr. West’s political views or his recent culturally inaccurate and inappropriate comments. In this particular case, we do think he made an excellent wardrobe choice. It’s not every day that a major celebrity wears Brockport gear and our social media team wanted to share it with our community.”

How the 21-time Grammy-award winning artist got the SUNY hoodie, and why he chose to wear it, remains unknown at this time.


August 18 — Impressive waterspout sighting over Lake Ontario, Mother Nature’s ‘water twister’

An incredible display of Mother Nature’s power over Lake Ontario this summer.

Several waterspouts were captured on camera as cold Canadian air moved over Lake Ontario and created enough instability for waterspouts.

The morning conditions on August 18th were just favorable enough to warrant keeping an eye out for potential waterspouts across the Great Lakes, and many were spotted north of Oswego County across Lake Ontario.


August 20 — Good Samaritan helps Lake Avenue residents escape from house fire in Rochester

John Allen was driving down Lake Avenue when he saw smoke coming from a house, so he pulled over to help.

He didn’t wait for Rochester firefighters to arrive before helping a mother and her 7-year-old daughter escape from a window — something family-member Gregory Wilson Jr. appreciated.

“They were trying to get off the roof, this young gentleman right here is the hero!” he said. “He caught my sister off the roof and I appreciate with my whole heart, I really do appreciate that man,” Wilson Jr. said.


September 2 — Details of Daniel Prude’s death go public for 1st time

By now, most people in and around Rochester are familiar with the name Daniel Prude.

Police worn body camera footage from March surfaced in early September, and it showed an encounter between a Black man and Rochester police officers before his death; an incident that the New York State Attorney General’s office is currently investigating.

Family members of Prude, attorneys representing the family, and members from Free the People ROC first announced the details of Prude’s death and released the body camera video to the public.

It was the first domino that kicked off a long and tense few weeks for the City of Rochester, that resulted in major changes to the Rochester Police Department, violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement, and the suspension of officers involved.

A timeline of Prude’s encounter with police:

Editor’s note: Breaking down each and every local incident tied to Daniel Prude’s death wouldn’t serve our readers well on a summary basis as it is a deep and complex issue, with much of it still to be determined. Though we’ll highlight some of the events in this year in review, for the latest on the Daniel Prude death investigation, including the RPD shake-up and the New York State Attorney General’s investigation, head over to this page on our website.


September 5 — City Hall windows cracked, 9 arrested, alleged excessive force by RPD at Daniel Prude protest in Rochester

Protests over Daniel Prude’s death continued each night in Rochester after it became public, culminating in a violent clash Saturday night in downtown.

Police said some of the more than 1,000 protesters used fireworks and threw bottles at officers before deploying tear gas and pepper balls.

These violent protests became a common sight in early September, as the community had reached a boiling point over police brutality and the city’ handling of Prude’s death. Many were arrested, but protesters insisted they would not stop their efforts until their demands were met.


September 7 — President Trump says Rochester is ‘weakly run by radical left’ after a night of peaceful protests

News of Daniel Prude’s death, and the subsequent protests, had become a topic of national discussion.

So much so that President Donald Trump took an opportunity to take a shot at our city’s leadership.

In response, Mayor Warren said in a statement: “I ask that all involved ignore the commentary from the President. It is clear is his only desire is to bait people to act with hate and incite violence that he believes will benefit him politically. We will not give him what he wants. We will continue to act with grace and do the work necessary to improve Rochester and our entire community.”


September 7 — Naked with spit hoods: Rochester protesters demonstrate in solidarity with Daniel Prude

Demonstrating in spit hoods and naked in the street, Rochester protesters demanded state action for Daniel Prude outside the Public Safety Building Monday morning.

City Councilmember Mary Lupien described why the demonstrators did what they did.

“It was cold. He was handcuffed on the ground, no blanket,” Lupien said. “It can too quickly be sensationalized and really compartmentalized, but I think it’s really impactful to just imagine as a human being this happening to you and your loved one.”

The demonstrators sat outside the Public Safety Building, in the middle of the street, with their hands behind their backs for about an hour.


September 8 — Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, more RPD command staff retire in wake of Daniel Prude death

Less than a week after details of Daniel Prude’s first became public and protests consumed the city in Rochester, RPD Chief La’Ron Singletary and most of the RPD command staff announced they would be retiring at the end of the month.

The retirements came on the same day that the Prude family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Rochester and a number of police officers, alleging an internal cover-up by the RPD and demanding a jury trial in an 82-page document.

Mayor Lovely Warren said that the chief would hold the office through the end of September to ensure safety in the city, but that didn’t last long, less than a week actually.


September 9 — Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester police union president call on each other to resign

Finger-pointing between city officials over Daniel Prude’s death persisted as Mayor Warren and Rochester Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo called on each other to resign.

“There’s a need for change,” Mazzeo said. “When we have a command staff walk out the door, something is wrong. I think too many people are involved in this that know the truth, and I hope the others learn soon.”

“Mike Mazzeo and his ilk exist only to protect and serve themselves, and certainly not the people of the City of Rochester,” Warren said. “It is time for Mike Mazzeo to resign, because his archaic ways of policing are no longer wanted in the City of Rochester.”

Mazzeo and Warren did not resign and still hold their respective positions.


September 14 — Mayor Warren: Chief Singletary out, city’s communication director, lawyer suspended, review underway

Less than a week after ensuring Singletary would remain police chief for the month, Mayor Warren fired him, and suspended the City of Rochester’s Communications Director and Legal Counsel as tension continued to swirl in the community over Daniel Prude’s death.

The Mayor also announced an internal review of the city’s handling of Prude’s death, and released a 323-page file into the events that transpired, including police reports, and email exchanges between RPD officials.

“This initial look has shown that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve,” Mayor Warren said. “I have apologized to the Prude family and this community for the failures that have happened along the way, including my own as mayor. Never again can we allow any man or woman to needlessly die in police custody.”


September 15 — City of Rochester looking for woman flipped over by garbage truck

In non-Daniel Prude news, City of Rochester officials were searching for a woman who was seen on video being flipped over by a garbage truck accident.

The video was captured from surveillance cameras at Shop-Smart Mini Mart at the corner on South Avenue and Comfort Street in Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood.

The woman, sitting on a city bench, was flipped over when a garbage truck operator accidently hooked onto the bench instead of a nearby waste basket.

Officials said the garbage truck driver was a long-term employee who had planned retirement, adding that he retired shortly after the incident and did not report it, before the video went public.


September 16 — Mayor Warren on RPD’s handling of Daniel Prude death: ‘Clear deception,’ done purposefully

In a 30-minute, one-on-one interview with News 8 Anchor Adam Chodak, Mayor Warren opened up about the Daniel Prude investigation, widespread protests, and controversy swirling around City Hall.

Despite allegations of a cover-up, the Mayor insisted she didn’t know everything she needed to know regarding Prude’s death.

“All the times I could’ve been contacted,” Mayor Warren said. “All the times his own people said ‘Tell the mayor.’ And knowing what I knew, and what I was told, that this was a PCP overdose, I just couldn’t let it stand, because it was clear deception along the way, and information that could’ve been shared, but was not shared. I could only surmise that this was done purposefully.”


September 19 — Two teens killed, 14 more injured in mass shooting on Rochester’s northeast side

Two teens were killed and more than a dozen others were injured in one of the worst mass shootings in Rochester’s history this September.

Jaquayla Young and Jarvis Alexander, both 19 years old, were killed. Rochester police say they believe neither was the intended target after a party with more than 200 people escalated near the 200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue on the city’s northeast side.

To this day, no arrests have been made in connection to the mass shooting. All of those injured have since been released from area hospitals.


September 25 — Foliage emerging at Letchworth State Park

Just some beautiful Upstate New York fall foliage. That’s it. That’s the post.

And some more from Montour Falls in the Southern Tier, for good measure.


October 2 — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren indicted by grand jury, charged with scheme to defraud

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was indicted by a grand jury for campaign finance violations.

The grand jury’s indictment followed a yearslong investigation into the mayor’s 2017 re-election campaign. The mayor is facing two class E felonies, including scheme to defraud in the first degree, and violation of election law 14-126(6).

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said a conviction of a non-violent class E felony could result in a variety of sentences. She said a maximum sentence would be one to four years in state prison, but there could also be probation, split sentences, or restitution in this case.

According to 2017 expenditures of Warren’s political action committee, Warren for a Stronger Rochester PAC, $30,000 was transferred from the PAC to her committee, Friends of Lovely Warren.

New York State has strict rules forbidding PACs and committees from coordinating. Warren’s campaign claimed the money was earmarked for Friends of Lovely Warren, but was accidentally placed in the PAC account through a “PayPal error,” or a clerical mistake.

“I think the indictment alleges that this was not a mistake,” Doorley said.

Officials say the basis of this allegation is that the PAC was used to circumvent a limit set on campaign donations — the limit in 2017 was set at $8,557.

Mayor Warren has maintained her innocence, and has remained in office.


October 2 — Cellino confirms Steve Barnes, niece Elizabeth Barnes die in Genesee County plane crash

Steve Barnes, one of the region’s most prominent attorneys, and his niece Elizabeth died in early October when a small plane crashed near Corfu, New York.

“Steve and I worked together for many years at our firm.  He was always a fearless advocate for his clients.  His passing is a significant loss for the legal community.  Steve’s greatest accomplishment was his three children Josiah, Rachel, and Julia.  Steve is survived by his longtime partner, Ellen Sturm, also an attorney at our firm,” said Ross Cellino, Barnes’ his longtime legal partner,

Cellino and Barnes were well known for dominating courtrooms, plus television airwaves and billboards, for years.


October 14 — Ice resurfacer catches fire at Bill Gray’s Iceplex

A fiery scene at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex in October after an ice-resurfacer caught fire.

It caught fire while it was resurfacing the ice.

No one was hurt.


October 15 — Monroe County has lowest COVID-19 case rate in country for communities with more than 500,000 people

Before the recent COVID-19 surge locally, Monroe County was doing better than every other metro in the country in terms of infection rate.

Citing a New York Times study, County Executive Bello said that Monroe County has the lowest rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, for communities with more than 500,000 people. Still the County Executive says it’s important that residents stay the course that has led to that relative success.

Of course, as we’ve seen with consistent record breaking updates regarding all-time highs for single-day increases, hospitalizations, and active cases — the low infection rate didn’t last.


October 25 — Dog who went missing minutes before owners’ wedding found safe

Stephanie Woodward and her now husband tied the knot in October, and their dog Rocky disappeared right before the ceremony.

Immediately, the couple began putting up fliers and offering a $500 reward for Rocky’s safe return.

Two days later the pup was found safe and sound.


October 30 — Monroe County reports 136 new COVID-19 cases, highest number since the start of the pandemic

In late October, Monroe County Department of Public Health officials reported 136 new COVID-19 cases, the largest single-day increase throughout the pandemic up until that point.

Since then, that record has been broken consistently throughout October and November, as the virus batters the community and threatens hospital capacity. With much of the national and local attention on the forthcoming presidential election, the pandemic was rapidly worsening in our area.

To date, our highest number of new coronavirus cases reported in a single day is 729, from Thursday, December 17.


November 3 — Georgia woman’s ‘I voted sticker’ finds home on Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite in Rochester

Rochester’s quirky Election Day tradition of putting “I voted” sticker on Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite in Rochester isn’t hyperlocal anymore.

A Georgia woman named Marilyn reached out to News 8 WROC on Facebook last week, asking if she could mail her voting sticker to us, and if someone at the station could put it on the suffragist’s headstone, and take a picture for her.

Election Day is as busy as it gets for most for newsrooms across the country, but we couldn’t say no. Specifically, our digital reporter Dan Gross couldn’t say no.


November 11 — Gov. Cuomo: 10 p.m. closure for bars, restaurants, gyms; private gatherings capped at 10

Déjà vu?

As COVID-19 surged locally, and statewide, the state government initiated new restrictions aimed and reducing the viral spread.

Although not as restrictive as NY PAUSE orders in place earlier in the year, it was a striking reminder that COVID-19 wasn’t easing up.

The governor announced in mid-November:

  • Any bar, restaurant, or establishment with New York State Liquor Authority license must close for dine-in by 10 p.m. Takeout and pickup only after 10 p.m.
  • Gyms must close by 10 p.m.
  • Private house gatherings reduced to 10 people

With forthcoming orange zone designations, those restrictions would soon go even further.


November 12 — $50 million Amazon development coming to Eastman Business Park in Greece

A big local economic announcement this fall when Amazon committed to expanding its footprint in Monroe County with more than $50 million investment at 180,000 square foot facility on Lexington Avenue.

The project is expected to create 50 full time jobs, 50 part time jobs, and 400 local construction jobs.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello called the project “significant” and said the development would cost more than $50 million to renovate 180,000 square feet of facility space into a functioning warehouse and distribution facility in the Rochester region.

Work is expected to be done by July 2021.


November 18 — From Rochester to the NBA: Isaiah Stewart drafted No. 16 overall by Detroit Pistons in first round

Former McQuaid basketball standout Isaiah Stewart made Rochester history this fall when he was selected No. 16 overall in the NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons.

Stewart is now the highest ever draft pick out of Rochester, surpassing Greece Athena’s John Wallace who was picked 18th overall by the New York Knicks in 1996 and Al Butler, who was taken 17th overall in 1961 by the Boston Celtics.

“It means a lot to me, but not only that, it just means a lot to Rochester,” said Stewart to local media. “We’re going to continue to have a lot of guys on the map and going to continue to wake guys up who sleep on us.”


November 20 — Gov. Cuomo receives Emmy Award for daily COVID-19 briefings

Gov. Andrew Cuomo received this year’s International Emmy Founders Award for his daily COVID-19 briefings.

According to Emmy’s officials, the governor is being awarded “in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world.”

“It’s flattering,” Gov. Cuomo said during a November afternoon conference call with media. “I accept it on behalf of the people of this state. It’s for the people of the state. What New Yorkers did was really amazing.”


November 25 — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren mourns loss of mother to COVID-19

Another local reminder of the pandemic’s reach and devastating impact.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced on Wednesday that her mother, Elrita “Rita” McClary Warren, has passed away due to complications from congestive heart failure and a COVID-19 infection.

Warren says her mother contracted COVID-19 while being treated in the hospital for her heart condition. She was 71 years old.


December 15 — COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Rochester, bringing hope of pandemic’s end

More than nine months after the coronavirus arrived in Monroe County, Pfizer’s vaccine arrived, and distribution began shortly thereafter.

While health officials agree that it will likely take until summer 2021 to reach necessary immunization of the population, it was still a day to celebrate in a year with such limited opportunities to do so.


It’s definitely been a year. Here’s to 2021. And until then, we are all wishing you and yours a safe and satisfying holiday season.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we’ll continue to update this story through the end of the year.

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