Italian-Americans and other groups dismayed at cancellation of Staten Island Columbus Parade

Nov 21, 2012 1629

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Groups that normally participate in Staten Island's Columbus
Parade found out just two weeks before the event it would be nixed this year --
and they're devastated.

"We're heartbroken," said Luanne Sorrentino at Mrs. Rosemary's Dance Studio in New Dorp. "Heartbroken. I know the kids are going to be so sad. I had it posted on the website, we've been getting ready for our rehearsal for it."

Borough President James Molinaro's office said Tuesday the event would be canceled this year because of scheduling conflicts. It was slated to be held Sept. 30 - but that's the same day as the Stephen Siller Tunnel to the Towers Run/Walk in Manhattan. His office said they considered the following Sunday, Oct. 7, but it's too close to Columbus Day itself, when many local bands are booked for the Manhattan parade.

"This year, there will not be a Columbus Day Parade up New Dorp Lane. The date for the parade coincided with The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk, and as I am a strong supporter of that event, I did not want our parade to conflict with it," Molinaro said in a statement. "However, I want to assure Staten Islanders that next year's parade will be bigger and better than ever."

That assurance was little comfort for Islanders who had been looking forward to stepping off in less than two weeks when they heard the news Tuesday, including Theresa Maiorana Corey, president of The Father Vincent R. Capodanno Lodge, Order of the Sons of Italy in America.

"It's something that we look forward to every year," she said. "It's a way for us to march in celebration of our heritage."

With the largest Italian-American population in the five boroughs Mrs. Corey said the cancellation was especially upsetting.

"That would have been the last thing that should have been canceled due to scheduling problems," she said. "It's unfortunate to say the least. Disappointing and unfortunate."

The parade -- which last year drew over 1,000 people -- is a favorite event for Mrs. Rosemary's staff and students, since the quick route is right in their neighborhood. But Ms. Sorrentino said the borough president must have tried his best to reschedule.

"It's nice and short. We always have nice weather, and it's so close to dancing school," Ms. Sorrentino said. "We must dance about 10 times, doing the Tarantella, having live music behind us."

The Tarantella, an Italian dance, is a staple at the event celebrating Italian heritage. But the parade featured all types of music, including bagpipes -- and Laurence Ronan, president of the Richmond County Pipes and Drums, was also disappointed about its cancellation.

"What a shame," he said. "It will be sorely missed this year."

He said in the past, the weather has always been great and the parade has always gone off without a hitch.

"We always enjoyed doing that parade, and hopefully it will not be the end of it or something," he said.

Ronan said he could empathize with the problem of an overbooked schedule this fall.

"The whole fall is so full -- this whole September has been a conglomeration of all of these things piling on top of each other," he said. "Between all the schools, the Boy Scouts, the Girls Scouts, everybody is cramming everything in these last two weeks."

It's not only those who usually march in the parade that are disappointed -- local businesses will miss out, too.

Giorgio Giove, owner of Pizzeria Giove on New Dorp Lane, said the parade was great for business.

"Last year it was my first year open, and I did great," he said. "I did phenomenal. It helped my store as a new business on New Dorp Lane."

He said the borough should be looking to host more local events, not fewer.

"I am not happy at all. Staten Island should think how to draw in a crowd not let them run off somewhere else," he said. "Enough with the forgotten borough. Enough, really."

But the borough will still celebrate Italian heritage next month -- Staten Island Advance columnist Carol Ann Benanti has been selected as the 2012 Italian Heritage Month honoree, and will be feted at the 22nd annual ceremony to be held Sunday, Oct. 14. A location and time has not yet been determined.

Mrs. Benanti writes "Inside Out," a popular Advance column.

"At this year's ceremony, we have an opportunity to honor an exceptional Italian-American," Molinaro said. "Every day, Carol Ann champions Staten Island's unsung heroes and celebrates their charitable acts, small gestures of kindness and good deeds. Her column chronicles how the people of Staten Island really are -- day in and day out."

But while the borough will still sing the praises of Italian-Americans with a ceremony, Mrs. Corey said it just won't be the same.

"There's nothing like a parade," she said.

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