Superior Court Judge Maurice Gallapoli ruled in favor of the committee and allowed the parade to run its traditional course along Bergenline Avenue, last Sunday, from 79th Street in North Bergen to 31st Street in Union City. In addition, since Union City Mayor Brian Stack had granted an extension through 22nd Street, as an alternate route to the parade, the committee let the parade run nine additional blocks.
West New York Mayor Silverio "Sal" Vega refused to sign the permit for the parade to go through the township, saying that people needed to remember the plight of the Cuban people.
"I was very happy that the Cuban Day Parade went through for the people of West New York," said Emilio Del Valle, CEO of the committee. "It was fun. I enjoyed it very much, and everybody that walked was having a great time."
Rain or shine
Although the rain was nonstop last Sunday, June 3, about 250,000 lined the streets of Bergenline Avenue from North Bergen to Union City. Personnel from American Airlines took the count of those on the avenue.
"The rain couldn't stop it," said Del Valle. "There were literally thousands of people out there in the parade."
Loyal parade patrons huddled underneath hundreds of umbrellas, and cheered for this year's honorees including famed bolero singer Roberto Ledesma, who was this year's Grand Marshal, and TV personality Charityn Goyce, who served as International Godmother of the parade.
"It was great," said Omar Tabares of North Bergen. "I loved the atmosphere, the floats and also Charityn."
"There is such great support being shown here today," said Carmen Rosa of Bayonne.
Tabares and Rosa were taking in the parade together, as they do every year, to show their support for not only the Cuban community, but for the entire Hispanic community.
"There should always be great support for all [nationalities]," said Rosa. "This is an area with a very large Cuban population, and I am just glad they were able to [have the parade]."
"It was wonderful, and it's exciting for everyone, especially for young children," said Henry Gutierrez, who grew up in North Hudson and now lives in upstate New York.
Joy out of controversy
Numerous media crews came to cover the day's event and to witness the outcome to Vega's promise to stop the parade from crossing into West New York.
However, despite Vega's initial resistance, and a promise to physically block the parade, he ultimately respected the decision of Judge Gallipoli. He was not in attendance, but fellow West New York Commissioner Gerald Lange did attend and had his own float in the parade.
"It's very nice, I always come to the parade, but it always seems to rain," said Maritza Guiracocha of Jersey City, who came out with her son Johnny, 6, and her daughter Nariah, 8, who lives with her father in West New York.
As far as the possibility that the parade almost did not go through, Guiracocha said, "That actually got me very upset. We have a right to be happy because we are Cuban-Americans. We should be proud that we are able to live free [in the United States] as Cubans."
Guiracocha's daughter Nariah also had a few things to say, "I didn't like that they didn't have support for the Cubans to have a parade."
But all's well that ends well, and as for Nariah's favorite part, "I like the part where the songs were coming down, and the marching girls and boys."
Among this year's honorees marching were singers Malena Burke, Roberto Ledesma, Marcelino Valdez, and Cuban of the Year Rey El Vikingo.
All four honorees performed at the parade's "Cuban Passion Show" the previous Saturday, and Ledesma and Burke received honorary stars at Union City's Celia Cruz Park.
"I'm so overwhelmed with emotion," said Burke, parade godmother. "This is my first time in Union City and I am honored to have been selected as this year's godmother."
At the star dedication she also said, "I'm happy the way they have honored Celia Cruz in Union City, and now they give this great honor to me [in her park]."
"I am proud and honored to be here and sharing today with all the Latinos of this community here in the Garden State," said Ledesma, who has not visited Union City in five years. "There has been a lot of progress here and a promising youth that will hopefully continue to hear my music."
Also receiving star dedications at Celia Cruz Park were the late bolero singer Vicentico Fernandez, and Cruz's late husband Pedro Knight.
Accepting the star for Valdez was the singer's nephew and recording artist Marcelino Valdez.
"I am very proud to accept this honor on behalf of my uncle Vicentico Valdez," said Valdez. "The best surprise for me, however, was touching base and reuniting with my uncle's children. It was great to see them."
Party on 22nd Street
The honorees were joined at the ceremony by local, state and federal representatives, who also marched in the parade. Among them were: Union City Brian Stack and Commissioners, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Hoboken Councilman Ruben Ramos, West New York Commissioner Gerald Lange, and Rep. Albio Sires.
According to Del Valle, Sen. Robert Menendez also put in his annual appearance, but was not seen by the Reporter.
There were 11 floats including those from annual sponsors like American Airlines, Pollo Tropical, Univision 41, Telemundo 47, and Radio Wado 1280 AM.
Several other organizations such as the Kiwanis, Cuban Lions Club, Onieda's Dance Studio, and several North Hudson politicians also had their own floats.
Members and vehicles from the Hudson County Sheriff's office also accompanied the parade from North Bergen to Union City.
"It was marvelous," said Mirta Manzano of Union City, who came out with her husband and three sons. "We come to the parade every year to show support for our country."
As far as next year, the parade will return to its traditional route of 79th Street to 31st Street, without the additional nine blocks. The committee plans to get the permits signed earlier to address any problems in a timely fashion. Jessica Rosero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org