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Revival of Brentwood Hispanic parade planned

Residents and children take in the Brentwood Puerto

Residents and children take in the Brentwood Puerto Rican Parade. (June 5, 2011) Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

The tens of thousands of people who look forward to the annual Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade in Brentwood need not put away their sunglasses, lawn chairs and flags this year.

Just days after the nonprofit Adelante of Suffolk County canceled the June event citing lack of funds, other community leaders stepped in to make sure there is a 46th annual parade by raising funds to cover all costs.

A nonprofit known as Teatro Yerbabruja is planning the event for July. Details are to be announced Monday at a news conference in Brentwood.

The parade -- which brings together marching bands, salsa dancing and floats -- has been a Brentwood tradition since 1966, when a community of Puerto Ricans moving to the suburbs grew in the area.

"We had to save it," said Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Central Islip), who helped organize the effort. "To the Puerto Rican community our identity is something very important and I think the parade goes to the heart of who we are."

Close to 59,000 Puerto Ricans live in Suffolk County now as part of a Hispanic community of more than 246,000 people who trace their origins to various Latin American countries.

Adelante officials have said the event attracts more than 30,000 people on average, although an estimated 50,000 were said to have attended last summer.

The group announced last week that it could not afford the parade this year as it struggles to save other programs for youth and seniors as government grants and corporate donations decline.

Margarita Espada, a Central Islip resident who is director of the Yerbabruja group, said she will be heading the effort to keep the parade alive to showcase the best of Puerto Rican and other Hispanic heritage.

She was the main organizer of the Downtown Brentwood Community Arts Festival that took place last September.

"All we want is to take on the torch and continue the tradition, so that we can honor those pioneers who started this celebration," Espada said. "We are going to be looking for sponsors, for people to come and march and for volunteers to help us."

Although she did not raise objections to Yerbabruja putting on the event, Adelante director Miriam M. E. Garcia said her organization reserves the right to bring its parade back if it obtains sufficient funding for next year.

"Anybody can put on a parade, but we hope Adelante's parade will continue," Garcia said. "We are looking to start planning to make it bigger and better and to invite more ethnic groups."

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