There’s something to be said for tradition, and Little Italy’s annual Columbus Day Parade is certainly by now a Baltimore tradition.
“It’s the longest running parade in U.S. history,” said Tom Martin of Columbus Celebrations, the group that organizes the march.
This is the 122nd year of the Columbus Day Parade, which begins on Sunday, Oct. 7, at 2 p.m. The procession starts at the corner of Key Highway and Light St., and marches down Pratt St. to Columbus Plaza in Little Italy.
“We’ve had a couple years where funds were short and the procession was smaller,” said Martin, “but it was still a parade of people going through Little Italy.”
The day of parade-related events begins with a Mass at St. Leo the Great Church at 9:30 a.m., followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at 10:45.
This is the second year that the Columbus Day Parade has featured a 50-50 raffle, which according to Martin can be quite lucrative for the winner.
“$10,300 was the winning amount last year,” he said.
Tickets for the raffle cost $20, and can be purchased via email from Martin: firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds go to next year’s parade.
The Columbus Day Parade celebrates Italian heritage, but that’s not the only group represented.
“In the last several years, we’ve gotten the Latino Community involved,” said Martin. “We encourage everybody to come out.”
The parade features antique cars, drum majors from school groups, and groups from Italian organizations. There is also flatbed truck covered with grapes that are stomped while Italian music plays. The U.S. Naval Academy Band also plays on another truck.
“It’s an amazing band,” said Martin.
The Baltimore Police will have officers riding horses in the parade, and the Knights of Columbus will be represented as well.
Last year, an antique fire truck was shipped over from Genoa, Italy, along with 40 Italian firefighters, to add to the procession’s allure. In previous years, Italian policemen and Italian boxers who competed in the Olympics marched in the parade.
“We try to do something new and creative every year,” said Alfredo Massa, chairman of the parade.
This year is no exception. The mayor of the Italian city of Montesarchio, located in the province of Benevento, will be marching.
“This is the first time that a mayor from Italy has been in a parade in the United States,” said Massa.
Organizing the parade is largely a volunteer effort. Columbus Celebrations has meetings periodically throughout the year, and many of the Italian Organizations—the Sons of Italy, for example—are represented.
“We encourage people of all groups to come to our meetings,” said Martin.
by Erik Zygmont