Thousands lined Fifth Avenue Monday to honor Italian-Americans amid a procession of floats and marching bands at the 68th annual Columbus Day Parade.
For Adriana Amato of Flushing, Queens, the day could not have come any sooner. She has been waiting 32 years to attend the parade, she said.
"It's a thrill to be here. I worked all my life and could never take the day off to come. Now, I can enjoy the parade," Amato, who is now retired, said, smiling as she waved an Italian flag to the throngs of NYPD officers, firefighters and others from New York, Long Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
"It's beautiful to be here," said Amato, who was born in Formia, Italy. She came to the United States at 17, got married at 21, and raised her family in Queens, she said with pride as her husband, Anthony, and daughter, Tina Lutzky, stood at her side on 57th Street.
Lutzky, of New Hyde Park, said: "We're proud to be Italian." An elementary schoolteacher for autistic children, she said: "We were teaching our students about Columbus and told them that he was a great explorer who had dreams about the other side of the world. We told our students that it is possible to follow our dreams just like Columbus." Lutzky's husband marched in the parade representing the city's Department of Sanitation.
Parade organizers told The Associated Press that 35,000 participated in the march and about 1 million people attended.
The parade included an entourage of elected officials, among them, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), who marched alongside several dozen Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and schoolchildren dressed as Columbus as well as Roman gladiators.
For the Rosa family of Oceanside, the parade was bittersweet. The family patriarch, Joe Rosa, 89, who died in August, had for decades installed the carpet at the grandstand staging area at Columbus Circle.
Since 1957, "my uncle has been installing the carpet and taking it with him at the end of the parade every year," said his niece, Denise Italiano.
Rosa was owner of JR Carpet in Oceanside. His son Sal took over the family tradition Monday, Italiano said. "It's been a very emotional day for us. This year my son Anthony who is on the Stony Brook University baseball team is in the parade," she said, adding that one of the mothers from the team made up buttons with a picture of Rosa that family and friends wore at the parade.
"My uncle took a lot of pride in this day, and his family and friends are here to keep this tradition alive," Italiano said.