This past Saturday, thousands of people came to Bensonhurst to celebrate the community’s 31st Annual Columbus Day Parade. With their American flags in tow, locals rejoiced in Brooklyn’s personal tribute to cultural diversity and U.S. discovery.
The parade started on 60th Street and 18th Avenue (appropriately at Cristoforo Colombo Blvd.) and continued to 84th Street and 18th Avenue. The Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO) put together the necessary preparations.
Rita Schettini, a representative from FIAO, said that every year, the parade is “better and better, bigger and bigger.”
“If people don’t make the Manhattan parade, they come here,” Schettini said. With the cancellation of the Columbus Day Parade in Staten Island this year, Schettini added that they had a very large number of participants. She estimated more than 3,000 people involved in the parade, with the total crowd size reaching roughly 10,000.
“The parade gives us pride. And we look forward to it, especially the children. They look forward to raising their flags,” Schettini said.
Frances Napolitano was a member of the crowd who celebrated the day with her family. She mentioned that Italian-American spirit had waned in Bensonhurst in recent years.
“The community has changed a lot these past 10 years,” Napolitano said. “[The parade] gives the neighborhood a lift.”
Italian-American pride is reinforced on Columbus Day, she added.
“It shows that we support the community,” Napolitano said. “It brings everyone together.”
Her favorite part was the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, joined by the raising of both, the Italian flag and the American flag.
“It was very touching,” Napolitano said.
Carmelo Vendra, a Community Affairs Officer, agreed.
“There’s a factor of cultural awareness that comes out,” Vendra said. “People get to experience the Italian-American heritage of the community. The parade brings out all different groups.”
He added that this year, even with such a sizeable crowd, the police staff did not experience any issues with parade-goers.
Maria Biesty said that she will be taking a message of tolerance away from this parade. Biesty is the mother of a marching band performer from the Dyker Heights School, I.S. 201.
“The parade helped to develop a sense of community – a shared Bensonhurst love,” Biesty said.
Next year, there’s talk of the parade running even longer, down to Benson Avenue, Officer Vendra hinted. While this has yet to be confirmed, the FIAO expects even more people coming to the neighborhood to commemorate Columbus Day.
“We still run strong and we still run big. It’s a community parade,” Schettini said.