SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Springfield Puerto Rican parade is returning to an in-person event this year, after two years of being held virtually due to COVID-19.

The parade will be held on Sunday, September 18 at 11:00 a.m. The parade typically draws hundreds of people to the Springfield area and is a time to celebrate Puerto Rican heritage.

The parade, founded in 1989 by community leader Gumersindo Gomez, will again feature thousands in the march down Main Street from Wasson Avenue to the heart of downtown Springfield. Gomez, Director of the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center, told 22News, Springfield’s Puerto Rican community has come a long way since that first parade more than thirty years ago, and still have further goals.

“Our community has to get stronger, our community needs to graduate from colleges, as we continue to make the city a better place for our families,” said Gomez.

“We’re so excited to be back in person this year”, said Parade Chair Victoria Ann Rodriguez. “Going virtual was nice but there is nothing like seeing the sea of Puerto Rican flags, live music, and smiling faces.”

Parade planners plan to also hold an in-person kick-off event which will be announced at a later date. The event will announce this year’s theme and open registration for those interested in marching.

“The essence of the parade is culture and community”, said Jade Rivera-McFarlin, Parade spokesperson. “While we were fortunate to be able to offer something virtually the past two years it will be nice to be back out in the community.”

Last year’s theme was “Continuando Nuestra Resiliencia,” (Continuing Our Resilience), which symbolized the resilience of the Puerto Rican community during the pandemic and the hope to move forward.