Thousands of locals from diverse backgrounds turned out in Bensonhurst for the 34th-annual Brooklyn Columbus Day parade on Oct. 10 to celebrate the neighborhood’s Italian heritage.
Students from local schools and members of community organizations marched along 18th Avenue, waving Italian and American flags alongside fancy vintage cars, floats, and marching bands playing both traditional and modern tunes.
The parade itsn’t just for Italian-Americans anymore. Bensonhurst has become increasingly diverse in the past 15 years. More than a third of Bensonhurt’s 151,000 residents are Asian as of 2010, and another 20,000 identify as Hispanic. The Federation of Italian-American Organizations, an umbrella group that helps organize the parade, recognized how important it was to maintain an open environment for all people who wanted to get involved.
“It was great. All of the schools, organizations and churches participate. And the fact there were so many different cultures out there was just great. I think everyone is Italian that day,” said the federation’s Eileen LaRuffa.
Three prominent local Italian-Americans served as Grand Marshalls for the parade — federation board member Biagio Madaio, Democratic 49th district leader Cavaliere Joseph Bova, and Justice Patricia M. DiMango, a State Supreme Court Justice and star of the CBS courtroom reality show “Hot Bench.”
“There were all walks of life out at the parade,” said Officer Jeff Bailey, auxiliary coordinator for the 62nd Precinct.
Bailey noted that there was a smaller spectator turnout than last year, but there were more participants marching in the parade than years past.