We sat in the bleachers under the reviewing stand near a bust of the parade's namesake, Christopher Columbus, watching as the marching bands and floats passed by. There were the honorees of course, the obligatory politicians campaigning shamelessly, several bands including the United States Marine Band, the town high school band, and a group of older men playing familiar Italian music on well-worn instruments. They reminded me so much of the elderly men who played the same kind of music in the street feasts of my youth, marching behind the statue of Our Lady of Loretto and her honor guard of old women dressed in black.
It was also nice to see young people marching behind a banner promoting the high school Italian Culture Club. We are all proud to be Americans, but our ethnic heritage must also be preserved for future generations. East Hanover is a town with many Italian-Americans and, unlike some modern-day critics who try to devalue his contributions, they are proud of Columbus for his discovery of America. The folks sitting with us in the bleachers were typical warm and friendly Italian-Americans, so naturally we were soon talking and joking with them as if they were long-lost relatives.
The parade route was lined with young and old alike, waving Italian and American flags as they honored Columbus and their Italian heritage. Among the marchers at the parade were were a contingent of Italian State Police who are invited every year to participate in this event. They stay as guests of local residents who welcome them into their homes and treat them like family. These Italian police officers appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly as they were cheered loudly by the partisan crowd on both sides of the street.
Being in that crowd as they respectfully stood for the Star Spangled Banner and the Italian National Anthem, and then watching them holler and clap for the uniquely American parade in honor of an Italian hero passing before them, gave me a warm feeling inside. Our country may change with the times, but every once in a while I am reminded that the values that made America great are still in the hearts of our people. I felt like I was stepping into a Norman Rockwell painting as I joined my fellow Americans of all ages in the bright afternoon sunshine of East Hanover, New Jersey. Here's a video clip of the parade for your enjoyment.
SEE DATES ABOVE RIGHT FOR OTHER POSTS FROM "BRAINDROPS". ALSO, READ MY OTHER BLOG: SPALDEEN DREAMS