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Thousands see parade at the Point Dignitaries, residents celebrate holiday at 26th Avenue march

For Cardali, a parade organizer and Korean War veteran, it's about the troops who never made it home. For Sahil, it's about something much simpler: the music.

"It's great," said Sahil, waving an American Flag and bouncing to the thundering drums of the Babylon Fire Department Drum Corps on College Point Boulevard. "They're always making music. We like the music. It's all about our country."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of a half dozen politicians who turned out for one of the city's oldest and largest parades, recognized the dichotomy of the event.

"Today is one of those days that is both happy and sad," he said during brief remarks in front of the Woodcrest Nursing home on 26th Avenue.

It is happy, he said, because Americans are free. It is sad because that freedom was purchased with the lives of millions of young servicemen.

Their sacrifice must always be remembered, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

"The day we forget them is the day the sun begins to set on America," the senator warned.

Their remarks may have been somber, but as the two men marched down College Point Boulevard grinning and waving to the crowd, it was clear what emotion dominated the day.

"Come on, everyone," Schumer shouted through a megaphone. "Let's hear it for the USA! USA!"

The crowd responded with hoots and whistles.

Half a block ahead, Bloomberg stopped to mug for pictures, throwing his arms around spectators who darted from the sidewalk.

"He's a nice guy," said Warren Berndt, of Whitestone, seconds after posing with the mayor, Berndt's son Michael and niece Julie. "He's a good guy - Bloomberg."

Most spectators agreed, chanting "four more years, Mike," as he passed.

One small contingent, however, booed the mayor over the city's proposal to build 180 wholesalers at the defunct Flushing Airport.

"We don't want him here," said Mildred Giolito, of 11th Avenue.

About 1,800 people marched in the parade that stretched from 26th Avenue to MacNeil Park. Sitting in lawn chairs and waving streamers and American flags, thousands cheered a dozen marching bands, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard Color Guard and dozens of veterans from the Whitestone American Legion and several local Veterans of Foreign War posts.

It was a perfect day for a parade, with a light breeze blowing in from the East River and the sun shining brightly.

The annual parade has wound through College Point since 1897, said Fred Mazzarello, parade chairman, who rode up front in a convertible. He has been chairman for nearly a decade and said the weather and crowd turnout made this year's one of the most memorable.

"It's great," Mazzarello said. "One of the best."

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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