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More than 100 Gifts Given to Bartow Children at Three Kings Festival

by James Coulter

We all know the story of the Christmas nativity. Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem. Angels announced his birth. Shepherds visited him by night. Then the Three Wise Men visited bearing gifts.

According to tradition, the Three Wise Men visited Baby Jesus twelve days after his birth. That day is known as Epiphany (or Three Kings Day), and it is the reason why there are 12 days of Christmas.

While most Christians and other people who observe Christmas celebrate only one day on Dec. 25, many other people, especially in the Hispanic community, celebrate Epiphany on Jan. 6 with gift-giving for children.

More than 100 children in Bartow received gifts during the Three Kings Festival hosted on Sunday in Mosaic Park. The event also included live musical entertainment, food and craft vendors, and plenty of other fun and games for local families, especially in the Hispanic community.

The Three Kings Festival was hosted by the Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County, a local organization that facilitates the local Hispanic community.

Ana Riviera, President and founder of the Hispanic Chamber, especially loves Epiphany, not only because it gives her an extra day to celebrate Christmas, but because the day falls on her birthday.

Riviera has been hosting the event over the past few years in other cities like Winter Haven and Lakeland. Last year’s event collected and distributed 65 toys for participating children. This year received more than 100, Riviera said.

Originally, this year’s Three Kings Festival was to be hosted on Dec. 10; however, the event was postponed to Jan. 7 due to inclement weather. Even with that Sunday being cold and rainy in the morning, attendance proved more than exceptional, Riviera said.

“The community gets together, there is a lot of food, we give away toys, and people get to know about one another and become part of a greater community,” she said.

Many local representatives even attended the event to promote their campaign and become more involved with their communities. Octavio Hernando, running for state representative, is a teacher who wants to see more people like him represent the people he teaches.

“We are the fastest growing district in Florida, we have to become more involved in our communities,” he said. “I love being among my people. I wish it were more in December with Christmas vibes…[otherwise] It is a great way to bring out the community, bring everybody together.”

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Staff Reporter

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