WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Seven years ago, Waterbury Resident John Murray had an idea to unite the different cultural festivals in the city into one.
That turned into The Gathering — New England’s largest multicultural parade and festival.
Saturday morning, as many as 10,000 people packed The Brass City.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful all-inclusive event,” said Waterbury state representative Geraldo Reyes. “Every culture is invited and welcome.”
Reyes is also a co-organizer of The Gathering. He said Saturday’s festival along Grand Street and parade through the city will bring together people of more than 100 different countries and cultures for a day of food, music, and unity.
Parade participants sang and danced through the streets in colorful, cultural outfits.
“You’re able to taste a little Lebanese, you’re able to eat some Brazilian food, you’re able to see a little bit of Yemen, we have 11 countries here from Africa,” Reyes said.
Murray is also proud of the spirit the parade shows off.
“The oldest marching band in America is going to march right here with 3,000 marchers following along,” he said.
Also in the parade — people representing community groups that make up the diverse fabric of the city.
“Us Waterburians, and people in the NAACP, we’re especially proud of this event because it shines a light on the strength of the diversity in this country, and I think it’s really needed at this time,” said Warren Leach of the Waterbury NAACP.
Civil War reenactors from Ansonia and Derby are marched.
“We’re here to be in the parade to honor all of our veterans and we’re also here to honor all those people who are here coming from all over the world to be here to gather,” said Martin Spring.
Those who are part of the festivities told News 8 the 7th Annual Gathering is needed now more than ever and allows people to come together to send a message.
“There’s a lot of cultural insensitivity happening right now,” said Reyes.
They hope The Gathering will, in some way, start to help change that.
“The parade steps off [Saturday] morning at 11 a.m. from The Brass Mill Center,” said Mark Lombardo, Deputy Director of Waterbury Public Works. “It’ll be joined by walkers from all of our schools here in Waterbury. They’ll be coming out of North Elm Street by our police department and then they’ll be marching on West Main Street past The Green and right on to Grand Street.”
After the parade, a street festival with three music stages were on Grand Street and food vendors set up on the grass along the sidewalk.
That festival lasted all afternoon. Unlike previous Gatherings, this one will not take place in Library Park behind the library because the park is closed for renovations.
The festival is free and open to everyone. Police will be there to make sure everyone is safe and enjoys themselves.