Columbus Day honored in diverse cultural community

Eighteenth Avenue, aka Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, returned to its roots in festive fashion on the Saturday before Columbus Day as the 34th annual Columbus Day Parade dominated the thoroughfare, flooding it with happy cheers and excitement as neighborhood schools and organizations put their best foot forward.

The October 10 spectacular — a community tradition that brings residents of all ethnicities out into the street to join in the fun — included marching bands, floats and so much more as participants — led by Grand Marshals Joe Bova, Patricia DiMango and Biagio Madaio — made their way from 63rd Street to Benson Avenue, where the parade concluded outside the new community center being built by the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Brooklyn, the parade’s sponsor.

It was a “glorious” day, enthused FIAO President Jack Spatola, who spoke of the variety of festive colors, and the people of all ages and different races and ethnicities partaking in the parade, whose overarching message, he added, was “be proud of who you are, of knowing your own culture and heritage while also embracing others.”

That message was personified not only by the people of Italian heritage marching in the parade but also, said Spatola, by the many schoolchildren not of Italian descent, singing Italian songs and dressing in Italian inspired styles, in celebration and acceptance of a culture different from their own. Spatola stated that the parade’s “multi-ethnic and multi-racial turnout and support allowed the event to truly be a community-based activity that brought people together.”

This year’s crowd was bigger than ever, according to FIAO member Eileen Laruffa, who expressed gratitude to the “many organizations and schools that participate and support the parade every year.” She also noted that they come from many areas — not just Brooklyn, but Queens and Staten Island as well. Laruffa made mention of the many elected officials, bands and singers that provided entertainment, as well as the antique cars that were included in the parade.

Bova excitedly described the parade as “fantastic and exhilarating,” noting, “It was a great day, the sun was out and there were a lot of people on 18th Avenue.”

In a neighborhood that has seen waves of immigrants from numerous countries and cultures, he added, the ultimate goal for the parade was “the celebration of Italian culture and heritage.” As well as “Italian American immigration and new immigrants. Eighteenth Avenue is just as Asian-American-populated as it is Italian-American,” he stressed.

Assemblymember Bill Colton, who represents the area, noted the significance of the occasion.

“Columbus Day is part of a great tradition, which we celebrate as part of our moral, religious and cultural values. The importance of a good education for our children, the importance of family, including respect for the elderly, the proud display of patriotism, the willingness to work hard and to make sacrifices for America, as the greatest country in the world, all are part of our traditions, and also part of the traditions of so many immigrants from all over the world as they come to America to find a better life for their families,” he said.

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