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Italian pride on display at Columbus Day Parade in Whitestone

Luca Barborini waves his American flag. Photo by Yinghao Luo
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Proud Italian-Americans joined residents of all nationalities to celebrate and march in the Columbus Day Parade in Whitestone Saturday morning.

The third annual event kicked off at 12th Road and Clintonville Street, as a procession of residents, local officials and bands strode through the neighborhood paying homage to Italian culture and Christopher Columbus’ famous voyage from Spain to the New World.

“This is an important day because it helps us think about the heritage we all share — Italian or otherwise,” said former state Sen. Frank Padavan, who served as the parade’s grand marshal. “So many people came to this country with nothing. They came here, they raised families and made it the greatest country in the world. We owe a lot to the original explorers, including Columbus.”

Organizations, including the St. Mel’s Italian American Association, were out in force to celebrate cultural contributions from the Italian people. Rosa Picciollo, a Whitestone resident and member of St. Mel’s, said the parade preserves traditions and honors all Italians — not just famous ones.

“We must remember the past and keep this day alive because it celebrates us. Your heritage makes up who you are, and you wouldn’t be here without the people who came before you,” said Picciollo. “Italians contribute so much. We are actors, painters, writers, singers, judges, cooks — we are everywhere.”

Also out on the street celebrating and in the mood to march were youngsters from the Miss America Organization, all representing different age groups as Miss New York. They included Kira Kazantsev, 21; Katherine McQuade, 16; Dominique Rivera, 12; and Joli Russo, 9. The girls represent America’s Outstanding Teen, a sister pageant to the Miss America Organization, promoting scholastic achievement, creative accomplishment, healthy living and community involvement.

McQuade, a Whitestone resident, said marching in the parade is just one of the ways she involves herself with the community through Miss America.

“I was very excited to march this year because this is my home,” McQuade said. “To be able to give back to the community and be with my Queens sisters makes the day so special.”

Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Civic Association, was on hand to participate in what he called “months of work and preparation.”

“Whitestone has a huge Italian population and today they are coming together,” he said. “Much of the credit goes to Mario D’Elia — he put an insane amount of work into making this day happen.”

D’Elia, executive director of the Italian Heritage and Culture Committee of New York, said planning the event was a “great joy.”

“We wanted to bring people out and show our Italian pride,” he said.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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