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64th Annual Columbus Day Parade in Little Italy; Meeting of Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc.

On Monday, October 10th, we went to the 64th annual Columbus Day Parade in Little Italy which was sponsored byimg_5232the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA) and the Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation.

Inside of the booklet that was passed out at the Parade was an ad from the Fedeli Group that perfectly captured the spirit of the occasion. The ad stated how proud it was "to be a part of the Columbus Day celebration that brings together the members of the Cleveland community. For many, this holiday is a way of honoring the Italian-born, Christopher Columbus' many achievements. We take great pride in celebrating our Italian-American heritage."

Many of the people who were involved in the opening of Italian Heritage Month last week at Cleveland City Hall took part on this occasion too including Mr. Joe and Ms. Marie Frank (who served on the Parade committee as President and Vice President of the ISDA District Council); Mr. Basil M. Russo (ISDA National President who was the Parade Chairman); and Sister Dianne Piunno of the Sisters of Notre Dame who was the Parade Marshall. Sister Dianne recognized us and told us that she respected Ms. Margaret W. Wong for all that great work that she does for immigrants and the Cleveland community.

We arrived early, bought a piece of cheese pizza at "Presti's Bakery" and walked around Mayfield Road watching people prepare for the Parade. Although, we would not be able to stay for it, the grape stomping contest being held directly after the Parade at "Little Italy Wines" looked like fun. We noticed that there were Italian songs recorded by Dean Martin being broadcast in the vicinity of "A Bistro of Pasta and Pizza" and a couple of blocks down the img_5185street there was a man lip-syncing the songs of Frank Sinatra outside of "Angelo's Nido Italia."

We decided to watch the parade from the very beginning so we headed up to East 125th Street where we found a tree whose branches we could sit comfortably under while we took notes and photos. We asked about a group of children standing outside of the Alta House and were told that they were students from the Mayfield schools who had raised the money to come here to watch the parade. Before the proceedings started, they entertained themselves by playing bocce and consuming what looked like a delicious luncheon composed of a variety of pizzas.

About 12:15pm the parade began and soon passing by us were marching bands from Garfield Heights High School, North Olmsted High School, Benedictine High School, Notre Dame College, Wickcliffe High School, Lutheran West High School in Rocky River, and Lake Catholic High School in Mentor.

img_5212Mr. Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle, Inc., cheerfully visited with people who were watching the Parade from their front lawns. We, ourselves, conversed with Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek and Common Pleas Court Judge Diane Palos. To be sure, there were several judges/judicial candidates walking in the Parade that day such as Michael R. Sliwinski, Matthew A. McMonagle (who we had seen the previous weekend at the St. Stanislaus Festival), Francine Goldberg, Donna Coury (who we had seen the previous Saturday at the Convencion Hispana), and Pat DeWine.

Very colorful floats were contributed by the Italian Cultural Gardens Foundation, St. Rocco Church, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, and the Solon Italian American Club.

As the parade was winding down, we decided to return to "Presti's Bakery" for a vegetarian stromboli and a coffee. As we were finishing up, we suddenly heard continuous screaming outside so we looked up just in time to see the Orlando Bakery truck pass by and those riding in it enthusiastically tossing out bags of ciabatta rolls to parade goers who had both arms up grabbing for them just as the youngsters were grabbing for candy.

It was an appropriate conclusion for an appropriately festive event.

That evening we went to the Garfield Heights Library on Turney Road to attend a meeting of Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc.

We watched a documentary film titled "The Last Mission" which told the story of American airmen whose planes were shot down over Slovakia in World War II and how many Slovakians risked their lives to protect them. The filmmaker, Mr. Dusan Hudec, made effective use of old photographs, documentary footage, and recently filmed interviews with several surviving World War II veterans as well as the Slovakians who helped them.

This screening was made possible by Ms. Loretta Ekoniak, the President of the American Slovak Cultural Association of the Mahoning Valley who brought the film with her and introduced it. Both Ms. Ekoniak and her husband are Slovakian on both sides of their families. She told of how  Mr. Hudec came to her for help raising money to complete "The Last Mission" so Ms. Ekoniak and her contacts helped raise thousands of dollars. She said Mr. Hudec came to her because it is a known fact that many people who immigrated to the United States from Slovakia live in the Northeast Ohio region.

After the film was finally completed, it was shown in several cities across the United States. The story that it tells is important because, as Ms. Ekoniak explained, not too many people knew about the bravery displayed by the Slovakian people during WWII including many Slovaks because the Russians, who controlled the country for during the Cold War, didn't want this to be known.

Ms. Ekoniak and Mr. Hudec remain good friends and she talked about his latest documentary that tells the story of Michael Strong, an immigrant to this country from Slovakia, who helped raise the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima in the famous photo.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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