Bensonhurst’s Italian-American community came out in droves on Saturday, Oct. 6 to celebrate the borough’s own 37th Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade, which routinely marches along 18th Avenue, also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, after the Italian name for the explorer.
The southern Brooklyn parade preceded the city’s larger scale Columbus Day Parade, held on Monday, along Fifth Avenue.
Though, the Bensonhurst parade certainly held its own.
Sponsored by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO) of Brooklyn, the parade is a longstanding Bensonhurst tradition that still draws large crowds every October, despite the fact that the neighborhood has undergone a sea change in recent years, transitioning from a predominantly Italian-American community to one that includes a large number of Asian-Americans.
However, according to FIAO President and CEO Carlo Scissura, the FIAO’s success in keeping the Italian-flavored parade alive and thriving amid changing demographics reflects the organization’s willingness and eagerness to adapt – past parades featuring such culturally diverse displays as Chinese dragon dancers alongside marchers waving Italian flags and dancing the Tarantella.
“To me, the parade is a celebration of Italian culture and culture in general,” Scissura told this newspaper prior to the parade, which got underway Saturday at noon at the corner of 18th Avenue and 60th Street.
From there, participants, including members of Italian organizations, church groups, dancers, students from local schools, marching bands and colorful floats, made their way up the strip to Benson Avenue, where the FIAO’s headquarters, Il Centro (Italian for “The Center), is located and where the reviewing stand stood tall.
This year’s grand marshals were Joseph Bruno, former commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management; Frank Naccarato, past president of the FIAO; Det. Stephen Agosta of the 62nd Precinct; and Ursula Annio, principal at P.S. 748.
Among this year’s marchers were the Majorettes di Caserta, a group that came all the way from Italy for the Brooklyn parade.
Additional reporting by Paula Katinas