October 9, 2006
By FULVIO CATIVO, Courant Staff Writer
Hundreds of people lined Franklin Avenue Sunday wearing, waving and holding the red, white and green of Italy's flag.
They turned out on a crisp, cloudless morning for Hartford's annual Columbus Day celebration.
The parade through the South End brought together old friends, city natives and residents from around the region to celebrate Italian American heritage and pay tribute to Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.
Marching bands from Greater Hartford and numerous clubs, organizations, businesses and civic groups paraded from the intersection of Franklin and Maple avenues to Columbus Park, near the Wethersfield border. There organizers gathered with local leaders to watch the U.S. and Italian flags raised and hear the two nation's national anthems.
During this post-parade ceremony, Mayor Eddie A. Perez joined city government and local Italian American leaders to remember the significance of Columbus Day. The celebration, marking Columbus' landfall on Oct. 12, 1492, is also an annual commemoration of America's opening its doors to legions of immigrants who came in pursuit of the American dream.
"It's a great day for the city of Hartford, it's a great day for the Italian community," Perez said.
Alfonso Panico, the honorary vice consul of the Republic of Italy in Hartford, addressed the 100-plus people standing at Columbus Park after the parade and reminded them that Christopher Columbus - or Cristoforo Colombo, as he is known in Italian - was a symbol of determination and strength.
The parade was dedicated to Gaetano Leone, co-chairman of the Columbus Day celebration committee. Former Rocky Hill Mayor and Councilwoman Barbara Surwilo was also recognized, along with state Sen. Biagio "Billy" Ciotto, a retiring six-term Democrat whose district covers Cromwell, Middletown, Newington, Rocky Hill and Wethersfield.
Ciotto, whom fellow state Sen. John W. Fonfara called "an Italian American hero," urged his audience to always be proud of their heritage.
"Never, never, never be ashamed of who you are and where you come from," said Ciotto, who was born in Hartford and now lives in Wethersfield.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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