Columbus Day Parade brings out Italian pride in Brooklyn
You don’t have to be Italian to love the Columbus Day Parade. In Bensonhurst, residents of all nationalities came out to watch the 33rd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade on Saturday.
Sponsored by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO) Ltd., the parade took place on 18th Avenue, which was re-named “Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard” several years ago by the city in honor of Bensonhurst’s Italian-American community.
That community is much smaller these days, as many Italian-Americans have moved out and have been replaced by immigrants from China, Russia, Poland and the Middle East. Still, the Columbus Day Parade has remained a beloved tradition in Bensonhurst.
The parade participants, including marching bands and hundreds of students proudly marching behind their school banners, started off on 60th Street and marched along 18th Avenue for more than a mile, to Benson Avenue, where a new FIAO cultural center is located. The six-story, 44,000-square-foot center, known as Il Centro, is slated to open before the end of the year. The center will house classrooms, an interactive learning library, a fitness center, a gymnasium, a pool and event space.
The parade grand marshals were: the Rev. Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, vicar of development for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn; Regina Scire, vice president of marketing at Investors Bank; Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-parts of Bensonurst); and Assemblymember William Colton (D-Gravesend-parts of Bensonhurst).
“I am extremely honored and humbled to have been selected by the FIAO to be one of the grand marshals for the 33rd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade,” Colton said in a statement. “I credit my grandparents who immigrated to this great country from Naples in the early 1900s for providing me with the faith, the moral values and the traditions which make this possible. My Italian heritage is important to me, as I work to serve and fight for the people of southwest Brooklyn.”
Colton explained that his Italian heritage comes from his mother’s side of the family. His father’s side of the family is Irish.
Elected officials and candidates for political office were also marching up 18th Avenue. Among the famous political faces the Brooklyn Eagle spotted were: U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm; his opponent, former councilmember Domenic Recchia; state Sen. Marty Golden; Councilmember Mark Treyger; and Assemblymember Peter Abbate. Abbate rode the parade route in a vintage fire truck and waved an Italian flag.
The fun didn’t end when the parade ended. At the conclusion of the parade, a cannoli-eating contest took place outside Il Centro.
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