New York’s Columbus Day Parade

I usually love the Columbus Day Parade.  It’s one of the more prestigious parades in the city and can have some absolutely wonderful sights.  Sad to say, but this year I missed a lot of them.

Blame the General Pulaski Day Parade.  It took a lot out of me as I was there over four hours (even though I enjoyed it thoroughly).  The prospect of another four to six hours for the Columbus Day Parade was too much.  I did make it there for three hours, though.  Only two hours of parade.

Hey, it was supposed to start at 11am!  I got there early.  Great spot:  opposite Rockefeller Center with my back to Saks Fifth Avenue.  A view so grand my camera couldn’t catch it in one photo.  I’m only going to post one of the two it took to capture the building.

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If you haven’t seen it before, the building just keeps going and going.

Anyway, getting to the spot was actually almost as interesting as anything else.  I was walking up 42nd Street and I hear sirens and more sirens and a few more sirens.  I looked and I saw what I first thought was a Presidential motorcade as it was so big turning onto Madison Avenue.  Flashers going crazy.

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Once onto Madison, they still kept up the sirens, but they were pretty much at a standstill.  By now, I knew what it was:  New Jersey was showing up late for the parade and was enjoying the chance to set off their sirens and flashers in the big city.  Honestly, I felt it was abusive.  Just because you can set off your sirens doesn’t mean you should.  Maybe it’s exciting for them, but New Yorkers hear sirens all the time and really don’t need to hear more.

Anyway, they had a lot of their vehicles getting into place.  Remember, the parade was to start at 11am and this was around 10:15.  Once they pulled off onto the appropriate side streets, they emptied out a number of marchers and they had to go and find their positions.

Anyway, back to Rockefeller Center and my long wait for an 11am parade.  The following picture was taken at 11am.

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The crowd was gathering.  And the marchers were…

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…walking in the wrong direction at 11:15am.  It’s a northward parade and these folks, who included the Grand Marshall, were walking southward.  Why, I remember the days of the Stueben Parade when it started precisely on time.  I’m not going to do any cheap shots regarding Italians and running on time.  But my feet were hurting and I just wanted to see a few sights.

At 11:35, the first part started (I was only a few blocks north of the starting point around 44th so it wasn’t an issue of travel time from the start).  As usual, cops on horses, although they were preceded by some antique cars (alas, no good photos came of that).  Then the Marine Corp band came.

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I haven’t seen them in a while and they’re always good.

Okay, I’ve posted way too many Miss Polonias, but I did get a couple of equivalents at this parade.  Here’s Joella Cuzzo, the Columbus Day Parade queen.

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One thing that was different about this parade was the prevelance of official filmcameras.  I haven’t seen many film crews covering the recent parades, but there were a number of them on Fifth Avenue.  The crowds always love them.

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Speaking of the crowd; this was a pretty good one.  Nothing spectacular, but almost everyone around me was speaking in Italian.  It’s always a good sign when that sort of thing happens.  The parade did have some calling back and forth, but not to the conversational level that I saw at the Pulaski Parade.  But there was one special moment when a float playing some recorded music was rolling up past us and three or four members of the crowd around me started singing the lyrics to the music.  The music itself had no vocal track, instead the crowd members took it upon themselves to sing it out.  I’ve no idea of the song’s meaning (national anthem? drinking song? children’s ditty?), but the fact that they started singing it out was nice and may have been one of the best moments of the day for me.

Another pleasant moment was when a cop grabbed a flag and started running with it.

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The parade started going in earnest.  There were lots of period costumes and the like.

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And dignitaries.

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And politicians.  Senator Chuck Schumer brought his bullhorn and called out in Italian.  I always get a kick out of the signs some of them have around them.  They want no mistaken identity.

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Congressman Anthony Weiner was there…but they must have taken away his bullhorn.  Poor guy.

But Mayor Bloomberg did show.  He always appears in the middle of a huge crowd.  I’ve seen him surrounded by children before, as if daring someone to say something nasty toward him in the midst of kids.

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Along with him came some uniformed police.  A couple of female cops stopped near me and I got a kick out of their extra handcuffs.  This picture captures less than half of them.

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Another beauty queen came by.  Actually about three of them did, but only one picture came out any good (and not all that good at that).  Miss New York.

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And another…beauty queen?  Or is she just a celebrity?  No, she’s Celebrity Queen Sondra Fortunato!  (AKA, Miss Liberty USA.)

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But, mostly what I seemed to see were people waving flags.  Not Italian or American ones.  Just generic flags.

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(The guys below also threw their flags.)

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Okay, the next is an Italian flag and they were just carrying it.

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At about 1:40, I left.  I was just tuckered out.

I missed the one thing that I was really after.  I wanted a picture of my favorite parade costume.  It’s always worn by women.  It can be modern or ancient.  It can be square or round.  My favorite Columbus Day Parade costume is…a table.  The women attach it around themselves like a bizarre hoopskirt.  The table is fake, of course, and it always holds food, also fake.  But it symbolizes a wonderful home; or at least that’s how I interpret it.  And who could object to such a symbol?  Not me.  Hey, it’s my favorite costume and I’m really sorry that I wasn’t up to waiting.

-H

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