What began in 1966 as a small gathering that brought families together to celebrate their culture is expected once again to pull tens of thousands of people to the streets of Brentwood in early June.
Organizers set the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade for June 5, on the same streets where the parents and grandparents of many area residents have marched over the last half-century.
They’re proud to keep the tradition going, leaders of the effort said.
“For me, it’s an honor and a privilege to be organizing the 50th year,” said Margarita Espada, executive and artistic director of Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja, the Central Islip nonprofit that runs the parade and festival.
Espada described the annual festivities both as one of Long Island’s largest block parties, expressing the community’s vitality, and an opportunity to affirm Hispanics’ contributions to the region.
“It’s more than ever so important to celebrate our history on Long Island . . . and the importance of the Puerto Rican community as pioneer, as people that really opened the door for all the other communities” of Hispanic immigrants, she said.
It wasn’t an easy feat to keep the group afloat through difficulties in securing sponsorships and grants, which brought the event to the brink of collapse before the nonprofit took it over in 2012, organizers said.
Organizers also plan to host a May 14 gala at Brentwood Country Club, an arts festival and domino tournament on May 21 and a lecture on Puerto Rican history May 25 at the group’s Central Islip arts center.
The June 5 parade will start at noon, from the intersection of Fifth Avenue and the Southern State Parkway in North Bay Shore. It will proceed north toward Third Avenue in Brentwood.
Sergio Colón, this year’s grand marshal, has been a leader of various Puerto Rican social organizations in Brentwood and Central Islip.
The parade, said Colón, 78, is a way of saying “that our roots go deep in this community.”