The 39th Annual Bronx Columbus Day Parade, an event that is part of the fabric of community life in the borough, was celebrated with fanfare on Sunday.
The multi-cultural celebration which doubles as a show of Italian-American pride made its way on Morris Park Avenue from White Plains to Williamsbridge roads on Sunday, October 11, with participants from local schools, civic groups and the arena of politics taking part in the festivities.
The parade was something of a homecoming for its grand marshal, Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO.
He recalled marching in one the earliest parades, about 35 years ago, with the Pelham Parkway Little League, where his father was a volunteer.
“I am very proud as an Italian-American, as a labor leader representing the labor movement, and certainly proud as someone who grew up here,” he said shortly before the march began, adding that being back marching in the parade as part of his job was like coming full circle and almost a surreal moment for him.
Cilento said he was quite proud of his Italian-American roots, and that they had served him well as in his chosen career as a labor leader.
“Our Italian-American heritage is about family, and the principles of the labor movement, which is about unity and solidarity, basically reflect everything we grew up to understand and believe,” said Cilento.
The honorary grand marshal, Josephine Fanelli, principal of St. Theresa School in Pelham Bay, said that being honored in this way seemed a validation of all the work she has done with children over the past 28 years in Archdiocese of New York schools.
“It is great to be recognized by the Morris Park Community Association,” she said just before the parade started, adding that the honor was wonderful and, at the same time, a little overwhelming.
She, Cilento, and Miss Columbus Bianca Mastropietro made their way along the parade route in Jeeps.
The parade committee honored local business leader Joseph Lucchese of Joseph A. Lucchese Funeral Home on Morris Park Avenue.
Among the elected officials marching were Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and Councilman James Vacca.
Public Advocate James said that the parade is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of Columbus and Italian-Americans.
Senator Klein, who sponsored a pre-parade breakfast at St. Dominic’s Church, said that he believed that he attended the parade for 30 straight years, and that he used to attend it with his father.
“This is not only a celebration of Italian American heritage, he said, adding “It is also a celebration of the Morris Park community.”
It has always been a tight knit community and one where the people look out for one another, the senator explained, and he offered words of praise for the job the Morris Park Community Association and parade coordinator Tony Signorile do every year.
He added that the parade had grown into the second largest Columbus celebration in New York State, a comment that Signorile echoed.
The parade coordinator pointed out the parade is just one of the many activities of the Morris Park Community Association, from the Christmas and holiday lights to its patrol program.