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Columbus Day parade in NYC: Thousands celebrate Italian pride

Participants march in the 70th Annual Columbus Day

Participants march in the 70th Annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City, Monday, October 13, 2014.The parade is billed as the world's largest celebration of Italian-American heritage and culture. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Revelers from all over the tri-state area gathered on Fifth Avenue yesterday to take part in the Italian-American pride on display during the annual Columbus Day Parade.

Marching bands, dancers and floats entertained the crowd as they moved north from 44th to 72nd streets. Paradegoers said the celebration brought the city together and celebrated its diversity.

“You don’t get anything like this anywhere but in the city,” said Gennaro “Jerry” Ruperto, 36, of Westbury, who took in the parade with his family. 

The parade began in 1929 and has grown over the decades to include representatives from throughout the tri-state area. 

Frank Bisignano, the CEO and chairman of First Data Corporation, who served as this year’s grand marshal, said a lot of people were eager to learn about Italian-American customs and traditions.

“Everyone is an Italian-American today,” he said.

The 120 groups that took part in the parade included 30 marching bands and more than 25 floats. Several elected officials also marched, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo, who proudly emphasizes his Italian-American roots, said yesterday’s celebration served as just one reminder of the state’s diverse character.

“Parades are a great way to celebrate the diversity of New York and to remind us we have a special gift: the diversity we have,” said the governor, who is up for re-election.

The celebration of Christopher Columbus’ birthday has had its share of critics for years due to his actions after he arrived in the Americas. 

Protesters around the nation have called for an end to the holiday or a renaming. 
This year, Seattle and Minneapolis renamed the holiday Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Most paradegoers said they weren’t too fixated on the negative aspects associated with Columbus. 

“Controversy is everywhere. We make the best of it and just focus on the fun,” said Richard Velez, 49, an EMT from Staten Island who came to the parade with his 5-year-old daughter Cami. 

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