The Fernando family helps raise the Sri Lankan flag at City Hall plaza.
Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — In a celebration of Sri Lanka heritage and culture, the city hosted a flag raising ceremony on April 19 to celebrate their Independence Day and New Year.

Local officials and residents gathered to watch the ceremony as well as the Fernando family from Island Spice who serves Sri Lankan food items in Chicopee at 32 Center St.

Mayor John Vieau said it’s his goal as mayor to make sure that everyone who chooses to live in Chicopee feels welcome.

He added, “This celebration is a cherished tradition for our Sri Lankan community symbolizes renewal and unity. It’s a beautiful example of how our diverse backgrounds contribute to the strengths of our city. In Chicopee, we are proud to be a mosaic of cultures.”

State Sen. Jake Oliviera (D-Ludlow) also said he was there to show his support and thanked Vieau for his continued efforts to highlight each culture and heritage in Chicopee.

“Thank you to the City Council, thank you to the mayor, thank you to all the city officials in the city of Chicopee for always recognizing the patchwork of cultures that make up our cities and towns here in Western Massachusetts, in particular the Sri Lankan population that exists here,” Oliviera said.

Even though the Sri Lankan New Year took place prior to the flag raising, Island Spice let people know on their Facebook page that their usual celebration with cultural festivities, a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast and fun games with loved ones, had to put on hold as co-owner Fernando is still working on recovery from heart surgery in the hospital.

Members of Island Spice expressed their gratitude for everyone who came out to the event and all the well wishes that were sent to their family as their dad recovers.

Malinthi Fernando added, “Thank you to all of our supporters, our family and friends and the city of Chicopee for making my parents dream of bringing some of our culture into the city that they raised a family in for the last 25 years. I hope everyone enjoys the celebration and we hope to see you soon for lunch.”

Vieau presented the proclamation to Dee Fernando.

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