Outlook 2023: Holyoke ready to celebrate past, present and future

Beyond Walls

Edwin David Sepulveda, from Puerto Rico, stands in front of a 50-foot x 85-foot wall mural he created on a building on High Street in Hoyloke, Sunday, June 19. Sepulveda is part of the Beyond Walls street art organization. (Frederick Gore Photo)

The city of Holyoke is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2023 with a yearlong salute to our past and an ambitious agenda for our future.

Holyoke’s birthday party kicked off with the 23rd annual Three Kings Day observance. Staff from the Office of Planning & Economic Development joined community organizations, Nueva Esperanza, Mayor Joshua A. Garcia and many others to mark Three Kings Day and announce the launch of the sesquicentennial.

The land that became Holyoke was first settled in 1745 and officially became a town in 1850. In 1873, Holyoke incorporated as a city. Fifty years ago, in 1973, Holyoke celebrated the 100th anniversary of its incorporation with galas and community events. Now, 150 years after its incorporation, Holyoke is a vibrant community — home to a rich variety of cultures and traditions.
This year we look forward to promoting and growing several of Holyoke’s signature events, including the internationally famous St. Patrick’s Parade, the Great Holyoke Brick Race, the Patronales Festival, Celebrate Holyoke, the Paper City Food Festival and the Rotary Summer Concert series. A comprehensive and growing list of events for 2023 can be found at ExploreHolyoke.com on the community calendar.

All local organizations have been encouraged to list their events as part of the 150th celebration. The 150th Committee already is working with the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade Committee to help organize the 70th annual parade down the streets of the city and the St. Patrick’s 10K Road Race on the weekend of March 18 and 19.

We invite everyone to join us on April 6 as the city marks its “Date of Incorporation” during an event when we will dedicate City Hall to Holyoke. That event will be followed by a reception. The committee is actively looking for volunteers, sponsors, and engagement from the community to make this 150th celebration the best it can be.

In addition to the 150th events, the city is expanding its public art projects, establishing Main Street as the Puerto Rican Cultural District and working with MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) expert whose title is “fellow.” The city of Holyoke already has collaborated with Beyond Walls to revitalize downtown Holyoke in conjunction with the city’s tourism plan, created the ARTery small works gallery, and was granted the Making it Public 2023 grant for temporary public art.

The Beyond Walls murals are a substantial attraction for visitors and affirm a sense of culture and community for the residents of Holyoke. The murals have brought light and color into our neighborhoods, embracing the beauty of Holyoke and its people. Public art complements the experience of coming downtown to shop and support local artists, restaurants, and small businesses.

The Office of Planning and Economic Development is prioritizing expanding public art. This investment will help the city’s marketing efforts, address quality of life by beautifying underutilized spaces and creating a better-lived experience in downtown Holyoke for residents and visitors alike. Re-establishing retail is a challenge in any area, including downtown Holyoke.

Addressing underutilized properties and blight is necessary for cultivating a safe and welcoming retail environment. The Office of Planning and Economic Development is actively working with the MassDevelopment TDI fellow on numerous projects and partnerships to provide on-the-ground economic development expertise and collaborative leadership. The TDI fellow will have access to various tools to help accelerate development on High Street.

Complementing public art in Holyoke, the Puerto Rican Cultural District is currently being established in partnership with city government and Nueva Esperanza. The Puerto Rican Cultural District will offer more opportunities and funding for public and private spaces around the city.

To support this project, the city has established the El Corazon Advisory Committee, a decision-making body in the heart of the city. The district and El Corazon placemaking project are brought to life through activities and embracing Puerto Rican culture. This is essential in reviving and celebrating the culture of Holyoke.

For more information on the 150th celebration and projects, visit Exploreholyoke.com. If you would like to volunteer for the 150th celebration, please email konstans@holyoke.org to find out how you can get involved.

Aaron Vega is director of planning and economic development for the city of Holyoke. To learn more about the city, its economic development initiatives and the 150th anniversary celebration, go online to holyoke.org.

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