Though the numbers of those of Italian heritage in this city have diminished greatly since the arrival of the first immigrants arrival to this city, Italian pride continues to burn brightly every October as Italian Americans here celebrate the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
This Sunday, Oct. 13, Philadelphia and Delaware Valley Italian Americans will proudly march off in the 55th annual Columbus Day Parade & Italian Festival.
Mark Rago, president of the 1492 Society which now sponsors the day-long celebration, noted the annual tradition continues over a week, beginning with the fundraiser at Galdo’s, followed by the presentation of a City proclamation to the members of the 1492 Society by Mayor Michel Nutter later in the week. Finally, the parade kicks off Sunday at noon from Broad & Moore Streets, marching along Broad to the reviewing stand at Marconi Plaza.
Those at home will be able to view the parade on WPVI, Channel 6, broadcast by Alicia Vittirelli. Grand Marshal of this year’s parade will be famed vocalist Bobby Rydell.
Parade viewers will be treated to a cornucopia of Italian foods, deserts, music and entertainment all along Marconi Plaza, an event which concludes at 6 p.m.
1492 Society President Mark Rago noted the parade has only missed one of the 55 years of marching along Broad Street and that was when Mayor Michael Nutter pulled the city’s support away from several of the major ethnic parades including the Mummer’s Parade in 2010.
“It was then,” he said, “we banded together as the 1492 Society to annually raise the funds the City demands from us.” He also gave credit to Congressman Bob Brady, who helped lead the first fundraising efforts.
The parade was initiated by Councilman Bill Cibotti, father of Council President Anna Cibotti Verna, whose husband Commendatore Severino Verna, among the founding fathers of the parade, set a record of 52 years as the Parade’s Marshal.
During Italian American Heritage and Culture Month, the 1492 Association commemorates the rich heritage of Americans of Italian descent. Its leadership includes President Mark Rago; Past President Pete Ciarrocchi; VP Jay Agnes; Treasurer Roger Brun; Secretary Jody Della Barba; and festival chairman Lou Galdo.
Columbus Day first attained the status of legal holiday when through the efforts of Angelo Once, of Denver, Col., Gov. Jesse McDonald in 1905 made it a statutory holiday in 1907. In 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made it a national holiday.
It is estimated there are more than 26 million Americans of Italian descent in the United States, with Delaware Valley home to the second-largest Italian American community with more than 865,000 Italian Americans.