NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The world’s largest celebration of Italian-American culture came marching through Manhattan on Monday.
The Columbus Day parade brings out Italian pride for all New Yorkers. It is now in its 72nd year, as CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.
“Oggi tutti siamo Italiano. That means, ‘Today, everyone’s Italian,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) “And my name is Schuma!”
Even the chillier temperatures couldn’t deter Italians and Italian-Americans from around the country from coming out to wave that green, white and red along Fifth Avenue between 44th and 72nd streets. More than 35,000 people marched, and the event drew around a million spectators.
Marching bands kept the beat, while polizia cars ran laps. Everyone felt that amore.
One young participant, Lorraine Caiccio, said the best part for her about being Italian was “that, like, you could share it with others.”
This year, the parade is led by Grand Marshal Robert LaPenta, a member of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and New York native.
“To be representing Italian-Americans on the biggest day of the year in New York, thirty five thousand marchers, couple of million people watching — it doesn’t get any better than this,” LaPenta said.
Chef Mario Batali and business leader Federica Marchionni joined the festivities as honorees.
“It’s like feeling what Columbus felt when he came here, so it’s a celebration… but a lot of responsibility,” Marchionni said.
“Just to be a part of the Italian-American culture is an excitement, just to be a part of a tradition in New York, the 72nd parade — I’m over my skis in excitement,” Batali said.
Batali was already planning a Columbus Day dinner big enough to feed the New World when he marched.
“I am making a thousand-layer lasagna — it’s actually a hundred layers,” Batali said.
Ladies of the order Sons of Italy were channeling their ancestors with traditional handmade dresses.
“My costume took approximately 30 hours,” one woman said.
Even Abraham Lincoln – or at least someone dressed like him – showed face. He said he might throw his hat in the ring this November.
“I think I stand a chance this year,” “Lincoln” said.
Celebrities made their way up Fifth Aveune in gleaming Masertis, stopping at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to meet Cardinal Timothy Dolan, 1010 WINS Carol D’Auria reported.
Dolan, an Italian-speaking Irishman who was stationed in Rome for 12 years, said he deeply admired the contributions Italian immigrants made to the city in the early 1800s.
“Most of them, you know, when they got here, they didn’t have much but they brought their faith, which Jesus calls the ‘pearl of great price.’ And darn it, they build the parishes,” Dolan said. “They gave us priests and sisters and schools and charities and hospitals.”
And as bright floats and even bagpipes passed chilly spectators draped over the police fences, it sure felt like la dolce vita.
The parade is organized by the Columbus Citizens Foundation, which provides scholarship assistance to more than 700 students each year.
On Sunday, marchers braved the rain during the 40th annual Morris Park Columbus Day celebration in the Bronx.