65th Annual Columbus Day Parade
On Monday, October 9th, we woke up to drizzling weather which concerned us because we had planned to attend the 65th Annual Columbus Day parade in Little Italy but were now uncertain that it would take place so we checked the internet and called a couple of news stations who assured us that the parade had not been cancelled and they would be very surprised if it would be.
Accordingly, we donned our plastic yellow rain gear (jacket and pants) along with our bright red "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" t-shirt and set out for Little Italy arriving a few minutes after 11am to find the streets moderately crowded but not nearly so much as they would have been if there had been sunshine. Since we have a history of getting sick due to rainy weather, we decided not to remain outside until the parade started so we ducked into "Mama Santa's Italian Restaurant" where we said hello to Mr. Nino Starvaggi whose family has owned the restaurant for some 56 years now. We then took a seat at a table opposite that of a nice guy named Glenn who loves to come to Cleveland festivities and ordered a good lunch composed of spaghetti laced with garlic and olive oil and warm Italian bread. Sitting close to Glenn and ourselves were members of the Wildcats football team from Mayfield High School who were in the process of downing several large pizzas before it was time to line up.
Since the latter started at noon, we left "Mama Santa's..." about 11:50am and hiked over to Fairview Avenue and East 25th Street where we set up our collapsible lawn chair underneath a conveniently large tree in order to protection ourselves from a sudden downpour but, by this time, the drizzle had stopped and weather conditions rendered our surroundings only slightly damp. Nevertheless, since we were not too warm, we decided to leave our rain gear on... just in case...which proved to be a decision that made us a cause for attention. In fact, several people said that we looked like "Winnie the Pooh" with our yellow outfit and hoodie that virtually covered our entirety along with the red t-shirt on top of everything.
Of course, there were a few people scattered around us but we mostly had the corner to ourselves. As we waited for the parade, a person noticed that we worked for "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" and came over to talk to us about the increasingly disturbing happenings regarding immigration taking place at this time.
Before too long, however, we heard drums off in the not-too-far distance and knew that it was time for the parade to start. Soon a float containing fire fighters passed by and we could hear one of the say about us, "this guy's ready" in terms of preparation for foul weather. Before too long, we were in the midst of the parade and since we were the only party sitting in that vicinity, we were pelted with all sorts of candies (especially toosie rolls) from the marchers. Fortunately for us, though, there was a school teacher named Colleen standing nearby who was more than willing to claim the candy scattered around us for her classes.
The parade itself consisted of quite a few marching bands including those from North Olmsted High School, Lake Catholic High School, and Notre Dame College. There were also representatives from such Italian American organizations as the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, the North Italian Club (established in 1925), Casa Italia Foundation, and the Solon Italian Club as well as several churches and local businesses many of whom were Italian-themed. It seemed like a lot of people at the parade were also at the Italian Heritage Month kickoff at Cleveland City Hall the previous Monday were present including Mr. Basil Russo of the Justinian Forum of Northeast Ohio and honoree Mr. Billy Donato.
Above all, there were community leaders and elected officials starting with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Cleveland City Councilpersons Blaine Griffith (Ward 6 which includes Little Italy), Matt Zone (Ward 15), and Michael Polensek (Ward 8). They were followed by gubernatorial candidates U.S. Congressperson Jim Renacci and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine as well as many judicial candidates some of them already judges and others vying to be judges. Among these Jimmy Jackson, Janet Rath Colaluca, Joan Synenberg, Jazmin Torres-Lugo, and Michael Sliwinski (plus at least 2-3 others) made a special effort to walk over and shake our hand.
The parade ended with the "Orlando" bakery truck distributing bags of rolls to anyone who wanted one. Even though the questionable weather placed a damper on the turnout, we found the atmosphere to be very relaxing and appreciated that fact that the temperature had cooled so it was not 80 degrees as it had been over the past several days. We can only hope that we will be as lucky next October, at least in terms of cool weather, when the parade celebrates its 66th anniversary-it does not have to rain to make us happy.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC