The old and the new Bensonhurst met at 18th Avenue for what longtime residents are calling the greatest Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade ever.
The cavalcade of Italian-American social clubs, neighborhood churches, school bands, and elected officials marched down the neighborhood’s main commerical corridor — nicknamed Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard after the Genoa-born discoverer of the New World — with guests from Staten Island, who Brooklyn’s Federation of Italian-American Organizations invited over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge after the procession on the Rock was cancelled due to to a scheduling conflict. Parade organizers noted that many of the visitors from the suburban borough were one-time Bensonhurst residents who were thrilled to make the pilgrimage to their ancestral home.
“A lot of these people were neighborhood people and they were very glad to be back on 18th Avenue,” said Anna Maria Messina-Walsh, a member of both the Federation and of the parade delegation from Most Precious Blood Church on Bay 46th Street between Bath and Harway avenues.
At the same time, Messina-Walsh said there was a great turnout from the ethnicities that have more recently become a part of Bensonhurst’s social fabric.
“The Chinese community really came out and were on the sides. It was a whole mixture: we had a lot of Hispanics, a lot of Italians, but the surprise was the Asians. It was just beautiful,” the neighborhood native said.
Another Bensonhurst legend, Courier Life columnist Carmine “Big Screecher” Santa Maria, said he was just as impressed.
“I thought it was the best we ever had. A lot of people were there,” said the beloved scribe, who rolled in his scooter Tornado alongside his friend Messina-Walsh for a while — though his star power as a writer led to him changing places in the parade several times.
“On every block, people were pulling me aside because they read my column, and they wanted to catch up with me,” the Big Screecher said. “They were all people I knew from the neighborhood. It was great.”