BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
This year, Martha Flores-Vazquez’s Three Kings Day – or Día de los Reyes – community celebration looked different from years past due to COVID-19 restrictions. In the wake of those changes, the district leader for the 40th Assembly District had to reinvent the celebration.
In years prior, the event was held at Flushing Hospital, drawing between 300 and 500 community members. But due to the pandemic, Flores-Vazquez, who also serves as the executive director of Community Prevention Alternatives, had to come up with a viable alternative to ensure the community’s safety.
In its 19th year, the event was held outside on Saturday, Dec. 9, on 41st Avenue in Flushing.
“I feel scared. It is not easy to have this event,” Flores-Vazquez told QNS. “But we are doing something good.”
While the group “Bomba Y Plena En La Calle” entertained the crowd playing bomba — a music style significant to the cultural history of Puerto Rico — on their drum barrels, families lined up at a table where two volunteers handed out one ticket per child.
Kids and their parents got to choose their present from two tables — with help from volunteers and NYPD officers from the 109th Precinct — filled with toys, games and stuffed animals donated by the Community Prevention Alternatives, National Latino Officers Association, the Cervantes Society, Councilman Peter Koo, Congresswoman Grace Meng and the NYPD.
Norma Castillo, who attended the event with her family, was grateful that they could celebrate the tradition of Three Kings Day considering everything that’s going on in the world.
“It is really nice that they are doing this for the kids who are home and get to go outside,” Castillo said.
State Committeewoman Sandra Ung, who co-sponsored the event, felt it was important that the Three Kings Day festivities take place during this unprecedented crisis and help out families in need.
“It’s nice to bring a little joy to the families and the community that needs it,” the City Council candidate said. “Even though this year it’s a little bit harder than other years, I’m still very happy that it worked out.”
The sentiment was shared by Jerry Filippidis, president of the 109th Precinct Community Council.
“This year is a tough year,” Filippidis said. “We are always trying to do our part to build our relationship with the community, so we felt it was important to support this event as well because the kids and the families are going through tough times.”
Anthony Miranda, who recently ran for Queens borough president, saw the silver lining despite the challenging circumstances, pointing out that communities are rising to the occasion and are helping each other out.
He also was grateful to celebrate Three Kings Day as part of his heritage.
“This celebration is rich in culture and tradition and brings the community together in harmony and joy,” Miranda said. “It’s part of that diversity that we have in Queens, is how we educate each other about different cultures and different activities. And this is one of those activities that is very well-acknowledged and celebrated, especially in the Latino community, but now all over Queens as well.”