Rain trims pa­rade crowd

Views are good in Colum­bus Day march held un­der cloudy skies

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ran­dall Beach

WEST HAVEN — The rain stopped in time, but ever-threat­en­ing skies re­duced at­ten­dance markedly for the an­nual Greater New Haven Colum­bus Day pa­rade Sun­day.

Lead­ers of the pa­rade com­mit­tee kept look­ing up­ward ner­vously as they gath­ered at the re­view­ing stand op­po­site the West Haven Green around noon, an hour be­fore the pa­rade ‘s sched­uled start on Cap­tain Thomas Boulevard.

“Usu­ally we get a very large crowd,” said Vin­nie Amen­dola Jr., the pa­rade’s master of cer­e­monies. “In good weather we draw 3,000 to 4,000 peo­ple.”

But only a few hun­dred peo­ple at most ap­peared to be in or around the Green as the marchers ap­proached. The good news was that spec­ta­tors on the side­walks along Camp­bell Av­enue had a good view of the pa­rade’s 80 march­ing units and 25 bands.

West Haven had last hosted this pa­rade in 2011. The ro­tat­ing event also in­cludes par­tic­i­pants from New Haven, North Haven, East Haven, Ham­den and Bran­ford.

Mike Walsh, a pa­rade com­mit­tee mem­ber, said or­ga­niz­ers de­cided to go ahead with the event be­cause fore­casts called for the morn­ing rain to stop and “There was no threat of light­ning.”

A few hardy spec­ta­tors had set up fold­ing chairs around 12:30 p.m. at the in­ter­sec­tion of Camp­bell Av­enue and Main Street by the Green.

Tammy and David Welch were there, wait­ing to see their 8-year-old daugh­ter, Emma, come by with the Mulk­erin Dance Group.

They said they weren’t wor­ried about the pos­si­bil­ity of the rain re­turn­ing. They had brought an um­brella with them just in case. David Welch said, “It’s only wa­ter.”

The Welches said Emma was quite ex­cited to be in the pa­rade, her first for Colum­bus Day. Her dad said, “She couldn’t pass up a chance to do an Ir­ish dance.”

Sev­eral ven­dors were mov­ing around, pulling their carts filled with Amer­i­can flags, in­flat­able pigs, Spi­derman fig­ures, plas­tic swords and toy guns. A man whose shirt read “Greg the Painter” bought items off the carts for any kid who asked for some­thing. He didn’t want his full name used in this story.

One of the ven­dors, who also de­clined to be named, said that be­cause of the poor weather, “I’ll be lucky if I make back the per­mit money.” He said that per­mit cost $50.

“I’ll just bring in what I can, that’s it,” he said. “That’s the na­ture of the busi­ness. Some­times it rains.”

Bill Zampa, the pa­rade com­mit­tee’s vice pres­i­dent, thanked West Haven Mayor Ed O’Brien as well as the po­lice, fire and pub­lic ser­vice de­part­ments for work­ing to host the pa­rade.

Zampa was asked about one of the rules posted on the pa­rade com­mit­tee’s web­site: “The pres­ence of plac­ards, ban­ners or other de­vices, in­clud­ing pam­phlets in­tended to spread pro­pa­ganda, po­lit­i­cal views or to em­bar­rass any group or unit of marchers are pro­hib­ited. Plac­ards and ban­ners will be lim­ited to those des­ig­nat­ing a unit or or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

When asked if that rule in­fringes on the First Amend­ment right to free speech, Zampa said, “We al­low po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions or par­tic­i­pants, pro­vid­ing there is no lit­er­a­ture. Of course there is al­ways free speech. Every­body’s en­ti­tled to their opin­ion.”

Colum­bus Day cel­e­bra­tions have be­come con­tro­ver­sial in re­cent years in some ar­eas as some peo­ple have cited Colum­bus’ treat­ment of Na­tive Amer­i­cans. In New York City, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are dis­cussing whether stat­ues of Colum­bus should be re­moved. But there were no pro­test­ers vis­i­ble in West Haven Sun­day, at least not near the Green.

Zampa said of Colum­bus, “He brought Chris­tian­ity to Amer­ica. This day is an op­por­tu­nity to honor those of Ital­ian de­scent who par­tic­i­pate an­nu­ally in this oc­ca­sion.”

The pa­rade was led by the Gov­er­nor’s Foot Guard, fol­lowed closely by O’Brien, wav­ing an Ital­ian flag. He greeted a group of men gath­ered in front of Johnny’s Grille a cou­ple of blocks from the Green.

The pa­rade units also in­cluded mem­bers of the St. Maria Mad­dalena So­ci­ety and the Saint Catello So­ci­ety, who threw candy to kids in the crowd.

Jil­lian Kristie’s 3-year-old son, Bran­don Ryl­ski, was per­son­ally handed some candy. Bran­don, who wore a “Ask Me About T-Rex” shirt, stared at the bands and uni­forms in ut­ter fas­ci­na­tion.

“This is his first Colum­bus Day pa­rade,” Kristie said. “I’m glad they still did it (de­spite the gloomy weather). I just wish there were more peo­ple.”

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Paul Frosolone, pres­i­dent of the West Haven Ital­ian Amer­i­can Club, car­ries the Ital­ian flag up Camp­bell Av­enue dur­ing the Greater New Haven Colum­bus Day Pa­rade in West Haven on Sun­day.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Gary Jenk­ins and his life part­ner, Carol Firine — along with a skele­ton car­ry­ing the Ital­ian flag — watch the Greater New Haven Colum­bus Day Pa­rade pass in front of their house on Camp­bell Av­enue in West Haven on Sun­day.

Maria Wil­son, of Mil­ford, watches the Greater New Haven Colum­bus Day Pa­rade on Sun­day. Dressed in the col­ors of the Ital­ian flag, she says, “I’m proud to be an Ital­ian. I had to come to cel­e­brate my her­itage.”

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