MANHATTAN, N.Y. — People lined Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Monday, waving Italian flags for the in-person return of the Columbus Day Parade.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan told PIX11 News it was good to be back.
“It’s so good to be back together like we’re normal again,” he said.
Organizers said 35,000 marchers took part in the parade and tens of thousands more watched. Organizers had expected about 1 million people for the 77th iteration of the parade — the largest celebration of Italian heritage in the world.
For Ida Como, it was a day to celebrate her family’s legacy.
“My parents came here from Italy and they worked really hard and I’m now a lawyer and I try to bring my heritage into my family and with my children,” Como said.
Famous New Yorkers of Italian heritage greeted the crowd, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The return of the Columbus Day Parade to Fifth Avenue, also heralded the return of politics to major New York City events.
Republican candidate for mayor Curtis Sliwa marched along the parade route. Democratic candidate Eric Adams was not in attendance on Monday, but he did take part in several Italian heritage events over the weekend.
Once a new mayor is elected in November, the next big election to watch will be for the governor’s office in 2022. Several potential contenders worked the crowds at the parade.
De Blasio has said he hasn’t ruled out a run for governor.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, who intends to run for a full term next year, also took part in the parade. When asked about the governor’s race, she said her focus was on celebrating Italian American heritage, but she also touched on a new proclamation she issued earlier Monday.
“For the first time ever, I’m declaring this is Indigenous Peoples Day,” she said.
Monday’s federal holiday dedicated to Christopher Columbus highlights the ongoing divide between those who view the explorer as a representative of Italian Americans’ history and those horrified by an annual tribute that ignores the native people whose lives and culture were forever changed by colonialism.
Communities across the U.S. took a deeper look at Columbus’ legacy in recent years — pairing or replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day.
On Friday, President Joe Biden issued the first presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day. But activists say efforts to end a formal holiday in Columbus’ name remain stalled by politicians and organizations focusing on Italian American heritage.