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Columbus Day Parade brings Italian-American pride to Manhattan streets

Mateo Apuzzo watches during the 69th Annual Columbus

Mateo Apuzzo watches during the 69th Annual Columbus Day Parade on October 14, 2013. Photo Credit: Getty Images / TIMOTHY CLARY

The organizers of today's Columbus Day Parade promise this year's celebration will be the biggest and most fun in its 85-year-history.

Angelo Vivolo, President of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, which organizes the parade, said the organization wants to share its pride in its Italian heritage with a new generation.

"We tried to bring in the young people into the parade," he said. "We have schools from all over the tri-state area and we try to exemplify our culture and heritage."

More than 120 groups from the city, New Jersey and Connecticut, including 30 marching bands and over 25 floats, will march up Fifth Avenue between 44th and 72th Streets. The celebrations will include music from stars including "American Idol" performer Jena Irene, vocalist Giglio Jimmy Alleva, and Italian singer and songwriter, Giada Valenti.

Vivolo said the Big Apple's presence won't get lost in the spectacle, especially since Frank Bisignano, the CEO and chairman of First Data Corporation, is the parade's grand marshal. Bisignano is a Brooklyn native and said he always enjoyed watching the parade with his friends and family, so it was a dream come true.

"When I thought about the line of grand marshals, I pinched myself," he said. "I felt honored and humbled and felt those who come before."

The parade and holiday have come under fire for years because of the controversies surrounding Chistopher Columbus' actions after he landed in the Americas.

The City Councils of Seattle and Minneapolis changed the name of the day to Indigenous Peoples' Day to focus the celebrations away from the 15th Century historical figure.

Bisignano, who will be riding on a float with students from a local grammar school, said the New York parade always had a bigger message .

"It's not about Italian-Americans, it's about New York heritage. This is a celebration of New York and a great diversity that this city has," he said.

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