Trumpets kept the beat as thirty-five thousand people marched along Fifth Avenue. One woman, a Napoli native, said she’s partial to this parade above all others. “There’s a lot of pride today, a lot of tradition.”
Those traditions shut down the heart of midtown Manhattan, Monday, as Italian pride pulsed along New York City’s streets and sidewalks. Now in its seventy-fourth year, organizers say the Columbus Day Parade is the largest celebration of Italian-American culture. The crowd of clergy gathered in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral had a front row seat to all the floats and festivities. Some of the priests, like Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, have Italian roots. Marveling at all of the Italian-American accomplishments, the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg said, “I mean I think the Italians in America did so much to build this country. We helped build the country.”
The Bishop of Metuchen, James Checcio, also has Italian roots. “The family meals, spending time together, that’s the way Jesus did a lot of his work, a lot of his ministry, and Italian’s get it.”
Other priests are “Italian” by association. Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he enjoys Italian food enough to be, “Well about sixty pounds that I’m carrying around,” Cardinal Dolan joked. More seriously, he commented that “There’s a real joy in their unity. We need that.”
Last year, the festivities fell during a time where there was a lot of controversy surrounding the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle and whether or not it should remain there because of Columbus’ contested treatment of Native Americans. Ultimately, the city decided it should stay. This year, as Governor Andrew Cuomo walked along Fifth Avenue, he nominated the statue to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas DiMarzio, commented on the voyager he has spent time studying.“He is a very religious man. He was a Third Order Franciscan, he recited the Office every day, he had his men pray each day on the ship, so I think this was a real man of faith.”