Colum­bus Day pa­rade cel­e­brates her­itage

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Car­rie Wells cwells@balt­sun.com

The Knights of Colum­bus kick off the an­nual Colum­bus Day pa­rade along Pratt Street.

John San­candi and Loretta Butta’s par­ents em­i­grated from Italy through El­lis Is­land, and for years their fam­ily has been cel­e­brat­ing that her­itage in Bal­ti­more’s an­nual Colum­bus Day pa­rade.

On Sun­day, they and their fam­ily mem­bers car­ried a large Ital­ian flag from the base of Fed­eral Hill on Key High­way along Pratt Street, and threw candy at on­look­ers, be­fore end­ing the pa­rade in Lit­tle Italy. Butta, 77, of Perry Hall, has at­tended the pa­rade every year since 1996.

“It’s good to see Christo­pher Colum­bus every year, and he never ages, which is just amaz­ing,” joked Butta, a mem­ber of the Or­der of Sons of Italy in Amer­ica. “Af­ter all th­ese years, he still looks good.”

The pa­rade, in its 126th year, at­tracts many of Ital­ian her­itage who feel a kin­ship with Colum­bus, the Genoan cred­ited with start­ing Euro­pean col­o­niza­tion of the Amer­i­cas. But the pa­rade also fea­tured dancers in Bo­li­vian garb, in­clud­ing or­ange-and-white se­quined dresses and elab­o­rate tall hats with feath­ers and stream­ers. A group of peo­ple of Mex­i­can her­itage fea­tured two peo­ple in an­i­mal cos­tumes, one a jaguar crack­ing a large whip, as they danced up Pratt Street.

The fes­ti­val’s Ital­ian roots were on full dis­play with a float shaped like a ship at sea and dubbed “Lil Santa Maria,” cap­tained by a Christo­pher Colum­bus looka­like who was wav­ing Bal­ti­more Ori­oles, Bal­ti­more Ravens, Amer­i­can and Ital­ian flags.

The ship’s oc­cu­pants tossed Toot­sie Rolls at the chil­dren, adults and shriek­ing teenagers who lined Pratt Street. Other floats, cars and pedes­tri­ans threw Mardi Gras-style beads, candy and red, green and white con­fetti — the col­ors of the Ital­ian flag.

The pa­rade ended in Lit­tle Italy, which was host­ing the Madon­nari Arts Fes­ti­val over the week­end. Artists painted the streets with images of Har­ri­ett Tub­man, gi­ant bee­tles, tra­di­tional Ital­ian paint­ings and ab­stract works.

Bill Martin, a mem­ber of the As­so­ci­ated Ital­ian Amer­i­can Char­i­ties and a pa­rade or­ga­nizer, said the event was held the week be­fore Colum­bus Day for lo­gis­ti­cal rea­sons.

In ad­di­tion to cel­e­brat­ing Colum­bus and con­tin­u­ing tra­di­tions, Martin said, or­ga­niz­ers wanted to help sup­port busi­nesses in Lit­tle Italy at the pa­rade’s end point. Res­tau­rants in the neigh­bor­hood have strug­gled with de­clin­ing busi­ness in re­cent years.

The pa­rade has been staged for 126 years.

“We don’t want to break that tra­di­tion,” Martin said.

In re­cent years, Colum­bus has gone from be­ing revered to crit­i­cized for his role in the de­struc­tion of Amer­i­can In­dian tribes. Mike Gal­ler­izzo, pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­ated Ital­ian Amer­i­can Char­i­ties, said the com­mu­nity ac­knowl­edged Colum­bus’ past.

“There’s some things in his past that we don’t like, OK, and that we’re not proud of,” Gal­ler­izzo said. “But we’re try­ing as an Ital­ian com­mu­nity to come to­gether and cel­e­brate our Ital­ian her­itage, and he’s part of it.”

AMY DAVIS/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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