Revelers at the Town of Huntington's annual Long Island Sons of Italy Columbus Day Parade lined Main Street Sunday, many waving green, white and red flags as the colorful, mile-long series of floats and high school marching bands passed.
The parade, now running for about 15 years, started at 12:30 p.m. in conjunction with the annual Long Island Fall Festival in Huntington's Heckscher Park. Together, the events draw more than 10,000 people every year, officials said.
"They did a fantastic job," said Richard Cohn, 56, of Syosset, said of the parade. "The bands, the warmth -- they did a wonderful job."
Parade chairman Keith Wilson said the parade and Columbus Day are an important part of Italian culture and pride.
"Columbus has been under attack in these past couple of years," Wilson said, citing criticism of the historical figure's treatment of indigenous Americans. "While we have no problem with indigenous people, we want to keep Columbus Day as it is; it's worth celebrating."
The event drew 25 chapters of the Sons of Italy from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, each bringing their own banners to also celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America.
"Italian-Americans are hardworking people and they want to show how proud they are of their culture and heritage," said Carolyn Reres, president of the state Order of the Sons of Italy. "This allows us to provide a positive image of Italian-Americans."
Until about 10 years ago the parade moved from town to town, until it found a permanent home in Huntington, Reres said.
Town Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, who hosts the event with the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, said he wanted to bring the parade to Huntington because Main Street is an ideal setting for the event, and it's timed to coincide with the fall festival, which started Friday night and runs through Monday.
"We're very proud to celebrate this," Petrone said.
Deer Park residents Karen and John Crescione came to see the parade before checking out the festival.
"My husband is an Italian and it's a beautiful day to see the bands," Karen Crescione said. "We kept saying that each one was better than the last."
John Crescione said it was important for him to see the Italian culture being celebrated, and that "kids today don't know their heritage."
His wife said all different parades and heritages should be celebrated, and Sunday's march was a reminder for younger generations to be more connected to their past.
"They have to respect to see how the older people come out and walk [in the parade]," she said.