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Hartford's Three Kings Day celebration continues tradition with drive-thru format amid COVID uptick

Excitement is why organizers shifted the city's annual Three Kings Day Celebration to a drive-thru style format for the first time.

HARTFORD, Conn. — After having to press pause on a more than 20-year tradition last year because of the pandemic, organizers of Hartford's Three Kings Day parade and festivities made it a point to keep some of its aspects alive this year.

"It's been going on for more than 20 years; it's been a long-standing tradition," explained Joel Cruz, Senior Director of the Institute for the Hispanic Family.

The Capital city's Three Kings Day Celebration is significant and memorable for the Latinx community. There's typically a giant parade with large crowds, music, and the three kings riding camels on Park Street.  

While last year's canceled events were rough for many, Cruz said organizers made it their mission to keep the tradition alive as best they could this year.

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"This time around, we said we just need a little bit of hope," explained Cruz. "Or a little bit of opportunity for us to celebrate even in the midst of what's going on." 

While the recent spike in COVID cases slightly threw off the festivities, Nilda Morales, Family Center Director and long-time event organizer, said they had to make some adjustments. 

"We were thinking a lot, and we're thinking COVID is continuing, the situation is coming, but the family needs to continue the tradition for our children," said Morales. 

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Morales explained that Three Kings Day is more than a big parade in Hartford. She said it marks the end of the holiday season and honors the three wise men who brought gifts to baby Jesus.

"All the children from my country love this day," Morales reflected. "The children put grass out for the camels and water for the three kings, and they wait for the gifts they'll bring. So it's pretty special to us." 

Jennifer Santiago agreed and said it's a cultural experience she and her family look forward to every year. 

"We are more excited for Three Kings Day and the Kings arriving than we are Christmas and Santa Claus," said Santiago.

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The excitement is why organizers shifted the city's annual Three Kings Day Celebration to a drive-thru style format for the first time.

While the flow was different, The three kings were at the drive-thru event, passing out candy and standing by for photos. In addition, kids and families received gifts and resources. 

"It's very special, and there's a lot of people in need, or there's a lot of families who don't have any gifts, so it just also good for the community," said Santiago. 

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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