NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A million people were expected to attend the largest celebration of Italian-American culture in the world as New Yorkers turned out Monday for the 74th annual Columbus Day parade.
The pride of the red, white and green was on display as hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the parade route, along with floats and all of the pageantry, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.
Bob Scarano’s business takes him to a lot of parades, but he said he’s partial to this one.
“This is my favorite, obviously,” the Clifton, New Jersey resident said.
Scarano is 100-percent Italian.
“It’s great. It really is. You don’t realize how many Italian-Americans there are until you come here and actually take part in this,” Scarano said.
The heart of Midtown was shut down Monday for this longstanding New York City tradition.
“It’s very exciting. People have big hearts today, excited. They want to share that joy,” said Deborah Garland of Staten Island.
When asked what her favorite part of the parade is, Daniel and Veronica Hansen said the “marching bands” and “seeing the horses,” respectively.
Organizers said more than 35,000 people were expected to march up Fifth Avenue, from 47th to 72nd street in tribute to Christopher Columbus and the contributions of countless Italian-Americans to the United States.
“My grandparents were from Italy and I was raised with that heritage and the Italians believe in what New Yorkers believe in — education, discrimination of none, opportunity for all,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Last year, the festivities fell during a time when there was a lot of controversy surrounding the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle, and whether or not it should remain there because of the famed explorer’s treatment of Native Americans.
This year, the focus was re-centered around a show of Italian-American pride, which you don’t have to be Italian to appreciate.
“It’s not just Italians. The Knights of Columbus was started by an Irish priest,” Knights of Columbus member Mike Tully said.
“(It’s a) very historic celebration,” another man said.
The events is put on each year by the Columbus Citizens Foundation and it funds an annual scholarship for young Italian-Americans, Burrell reported.