SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Springfield Puerto Rican Parade, celebrating its 33rd year, is set to commence with a vibrant kickoff celebration and the revealing of this year’s esteemed ambassador honorees.

Hosted at the White Lion Brewing Company, the event will take place on Thursday, June 29, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

The Springfield Puerto Rican Parade, founded in 1989 in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, is an annual celebration of cultural pride, arts, and education. It recognizes the contributions of Puerto Rican communities both on the island, with its 3.3 million inhabitants, and in the United States, where over 5 million Puerto Ricans reside.

Under the theme “Nunca Olvides Tus Raíces” meaning “Never forget your roots,” the parade pays homage to the rich cultural heritage of Puerto Rico, encompassing Taino, Spanish, and African influences. With Springfield boasting a diverse Latinx community comprising 47.5% of its population, the city is a vibrant hub of art, culture, traditions, music, festivals, and entrepreneurial leaders.

The kickoff celebration promises an evening brimming with cultural pride and anticipation for the upcoming parade. Attendees will have the joy of witnessing the unveiling of ambassador honorees across various categories, including Civil Service, Madrina (Godmother), Padrino (Godfather), Cultural, Youth, Sports, LGBTQIA+, and Community Organization. Additionally, a special announcement will add an extra touch of excitement to the event.

An undeniable highlight of the evening will be the announcement of this year’s Grand Marshal, Waleska Lugo-DeJesús. Waleska, CEO of Inclusive Strategies and Salsa Sal Pa Fuera DEI Advisor, is a nationally certified Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging facilitator. She is dedicated to fostering positive social change, addressing systemic racism, and creating equitable environments and communities through a human-centered, racial healing approach.

Kelvin Molina, President of the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade, expressed, “Waleska’s selection as the Grand Marshal signifies her outstanding contributions to the community and her commitment to fostering positive social change.”

The Springfield Puerto Rican Parade invites members of the media, community leaders, and the public to join in the kickoff celebration. The event serves as a testament to the unity and cultural pride embodied by the parade, while honoring the ambassadors who will play a vital role in promoting and representing the parade in their respective categories.

Representatives from the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade will be present to provide insights into the parade’s mission, its significance in celebrating Puerto Rican culture, and the exciting festivities planned for the community.

Spanning 2.1 miles through the city center, the parade begins in the north-end neighborhood and culminates downtown. Over the years, the parade has grown significantly in size and scope, uplifting and empowering the community while preserving heritage and challenging stereotypes, leaving a lasting legacy of cultural expression and representation.