Italian pride coursed through Morris Park for the borough’s 36th annual Bronx Columbus Day Parade, despite steady rains.
But lead organizer Tony Signorile scoffed at the gray skies.
“I’m having a great time,” he said.
Community groups, floats and dignitaries strolled Morris Park Avenue, waving to neighbors as marching bands, bagpipes and friendly sirens set the parade’s musical soundtrack on Sunday, October 7.
“This is an excellent turnout for a rainy day,” said Nancy Citriniti, a Spanish and Italian language teacher at Lehman High School.
She was one of the several hundred spectators lining Morris Park Avenue, which sported Italian flags made up of its familiar red, white and green tones.
Vendors colored the scene, manning food, jewelry and information tables. But unlike last year’s parade, which drew thousands, attendance was noticeably smaller due to a chilly rain.
Signorile directed marchers at the corner of Williamsbridge Road and Morris Park Avenue at one point. With a whistle between his lips, he coordinated marchers like a maestro motivating a seasoned orchestra.
The parade commemorates Italian-Americans who’ve carved a life for themselves in America, a land discovered by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492.
“This connects you to the old soil,” said Al D’Angelo, head of the Morris Park Civic Association and parade host.
An Italian-American, D’Angelo recalled the days his family ferried to Ellis Island to meet loved ones from the old country. “We were waiting on long lines waiting for them to come out and meet with us.”
The parade also drew Italian Consul General Natalia Quintavalle and Deputy Dino Sorrentino, a first for both. Word of the borough’s parade reached Quintavalle’s office thanks to Signorile. She agreed to march for the Bronx.
“It’s important to celebrate the culture not only in Manhattan but in the Bronx,” said Quintavalle, referring to the perennial Columbus Day Parade that marches along Fifth Avenue in Midtown, which Bronx parade organizers have said was the only one in the state that was larger.
Morris Park, densely populated by second and third-generation Italians, has been home to the parade for the past several years. Since the early 1990s, the area has become more of a “melting pot.”
Just ask Cindy Hernandez, an Italian-Peruvian American. A Morris Park resident, Cindy’s heritage remains consistently fresh thanks to her parents. Her Spanish-speaking mother Emma has introduced her to Italian, enrolling her into class at the Morris Park Civic Association.
“They’re the same language, but not,” noted Cindy, soaked after marching with the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
But the gray skies made the parade even more impressive for Morris Park resident.
“If these kids come out and maybe getting sick then why shouldn’t we?” she asked, pointing to the young marchers.
Marching in the parade were several citywide officials and community dignitaries, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, grand marshal Phil Foglia and honorary marshal Pat Cassano. Borough elected officials Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.,Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, and Councilman Jimmy Vacca, among others, also marched.
The event caps several months of preparation for Signorile, who worked the phones and solicited donations to jump-start the autumn venue. But plans for next year’s parade will be in the works at the end of October.
“In two weeks I will start again just to file the permits,” said Signorile.
Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383