Festive Procession Ends With Gift Distribution In Park
January 7, 2006
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Schools Superintendent Robert Henry laughed as he mounted a pregnant, 10-foot camel to ride in the city's annual Three Kings Day parade
"It's not like riding a horse, I can tell you that," said Henry, who obtained some camel-riding
experience during a visit to Egypt a few years ago. Dressed in colorful velvet robes and satin
turbans, Henry and Hartford business owners Stanley Gutt and Carlos Alvarez portrayed this
year's Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, the three kings who in the bible followed the star of
Bethlehem to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.
"I was moved to think that the members of the Hispanic community that are putting on this Three
Kings event thought enough about me to play Caspar," said Gutt, a longtime Park Street-area
landlord and owner of South Green Realty LLC.
As in previous years, the parade began in front of the Spanish American Merchants Association at
95 Park St. and concluded with a distribution of toys to local children at the Pope Park
Recreation Center. Led by Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, marchers included Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal, state Sen. John Fonfara, state Rep. Evelyn Mantilla, Hartford Councilman Calixto
Torres and several Latino community groups. Parade sponsors were SAMA and the Institute for the
Park Street was bursting with children of all ages who had a day off from school. They perched
on parents' shoulders or pulled them excitedly by the hand as they waited for the camels and
kings to pass. Above Rios' Little Mall at 469 Park St., both the young and old hung out
apartment windows laughing and waving, while customers of the nearby Edge Masters Barbershop
took a few minutes between trims to watch, shouting "Look at that camel. ...Where'd they get
Hartford resident Migdalia Rodriguez, who attended the parade with her 11-year-old son, Jonathan
Cedeno, and 3-year-old granddaughter, Cristaliz Rodriguez, said she wants her children to know
about the Three Kings tradition. She said she planned to cook a special meal, exchange gifts and
spend time with her family.
"This was a special day when the baby Jesus was born and we thank God for everything," said
Rodriguez. "It's a nice time for the poor kids who have nothing. They get to celebrate."
Magda Vargas of Hartford watched with her daughters Amy and Vanessa, ages 13 and 11. Though the
family doesn't celebrate the Three Kings tradition, Vargas said she has happy memories of the
day when she lived in Puerto Rico as a child.
"I remember getting up early in the morning and looking under my bed and finding presents," she
New Britain residents Taisuee Perez and Eduardo Vargas and their four children watched the
camels with interest, then slowly followed the procession up the street.
"In Puerto Rico, we would celebrate today and give gifts today. ...Santa Claus is not such a big
thing," said Perez. "We travel back and forth to Puerto Rico and we want to keep the tradition
alive. This is what Christmas is all about."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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