Honorees were selected for the annual Bronx Columbus Parade.
The parade’s volunteers have chosen a grand marshal, honorary grand marshal, and two distinguished citizens for the annual celebration of civic and Italian-American pride taking place on Sunday, October 8 at noon.
When the parade steps off and marches on Morris Park Avenue from White Plains Road, waving to the crowd should be a familiar face.
Parade volunteers, said parade coordinator Tony Signorile, selected term-limited Councilman James Vacca as the grand marshal.
He was not chosen for his prowess in politics but for his exemplary work as a citizen and Italian-American, he said.
Signorile said Vacca has provided the most support of any elected official during his 12 years in the council, and marched in the parade for many years before that as the Community Board 10’s district manager.
“The grand marshal this year is being honored as a citizen, not an (elected official) due to the fact that this is his last year in office,” Signorile said of Vacca. “This is a thank you for what he has done…he’s supported the Bronx Columbus Parade in a way no one else has done.”
Signorile said he also selected the parade’s honorary grand marshal, Lucia Mariani, a fourth grade teacher at P.S. 72 as the parade’s honored educator, calling her “a tremendous teacher at P.S. 72.”
Mariani, who is also Pelham Bay Merchants Association vice-president and owner of Lucca Restaurant, said that she loves going to the parade every year.
“For me to be a part of it is very exciting,” she said.
Longtime business partners John Bonizio and Mike Ungaro, owners of Metro Optics Eyewear, will share the parade’s Citizenship Award, which each year goes to business owners.
“I can only speak for Morris Park, and John and Mike are tremendous supporters of Morris Park,” said Signorile, adding “They come to the Columbus and Morris Park Community Association dinner dances, and they donate to the parade.”
Bonizio has helped over the past year with an effort to get a business improvement district formed in Morris Park, said Signorile.
For his part, the councilman said that he was very honored, and said he has given the parade a $10,000 grant every year he’s been in office.
“I believe that this parade signifies the pride of the Italian-American community and the history that this community has in the Bronx,” said the councilman. “As an Italian-American legislator, I want that parade to grow and (stay) a permanent fixture in my district.”
The parade, now entering its 41st year, can often draw a crowd of 5,000 people, assuming decent weather, said Signorile, adding the cost runs between $60,000 to $80,000 each year.
The costs of marching bands, some of who travel from as far away as Italy, are significant parade expenditures, he said.
The parade dinner dance will be held on Sunday, October 29th at Maestro’s.
Tickets are $95 and can be purchased by calling the MPCA at (718) 823-0596.