Jersey City is the place for a variety of ethnic parades each year, including the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March, the Caribbean Parade in July and the Puerto Rican Day Parade in August.
Missing from that list for the past five years has been the Columbus Day Parade, a favorite ceremony of the city’s Italian community honoring the explorer Christopher Columbus.
But this Saturday, Oct. 9, the Columbus Day Parade returns.
Starting at 11 a.m. from the headquarters of the Dante Alighieri Society of Jersey City on Summit Avenue (between Pavonia and Newark avenues) the parade will proceed through the Journal Square area before returning to the Dante Alighieri for an Italian Festival at 1 p.m.
During the parade, the celebrants will pause at the Columbus Statue, located near the Journal Square PATH station, for the traditional wreath laying and a brief ceremony.
As part of the Columbus Day weekend festivities, the society, one of the main organizers of the parade and festival, will hold their “Man of the Year” dinner on Sunday, Oct. 10, 4:30 p.m. at Puccini’s Restaurant on West Side Avenue. Their “Man of the Year” this year is the Most Reverend Thomas A. Donato, the pastor of St. Henry’s Church in Bayonne and a Jersey City native.
“We are trying to keep our Italian heritage alive in this city, and promote our culture.” – Michael Ricciardone
“We are trying to keep our Italian heritage alive in this city, and promote our culture,” Ricciardone said.
Bringing back tradition
For Ricciardone, the revival of the parade comes at an opportune time. First, the section of Summit Avenue between Pavonia and Newark avenues will be named Dante Alighieri Way at a dedication ceremony on the day of the parade. And the society itself is in its 101st year of existence, having commemorated its centenary last year.
Greg Rivera, the house manager of the Dante Alighieri headquarters and one of the other event organizers, said an impressive list of participants will take part in the parade. They include marchers from the Jersey City Police Department, Jersey City Fire Department and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office along with local Italian organizations, as well as marching bands from local high schools, including St. Peter’s Prep, Hudson Catholic and McNair Academic.
Rivera, who is of Hispanic and Italian heritage, remembered back when the Columbus Day Parade used to go from the entrance to Lincoln Park on Kennedy Boulevard, and down the boulevard to Journal Square, stopping near the Columbus statue when it was located on a traffic island in front of the Loew’s Jersey theatre. It was relocated in 1998 to its current site.
“Losing the Columbus Day parade was upsetting to a lot of us,” Rivera said. “It’s more of a staple parade in Jersey City, part of the city’s ambiance.”
Organizers did not comment on why the parade stopped and why it took five years to come back.
The parade itself dates back to 1950, started by residents from Downtown Jersey City’s Italian community.
Anyone wanting to participate in the parade can call Michael Ricciardone at (201) 653-0545.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.