NEW YORK CITY - Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated their Italian heritage at the 79th annual Columbus Day Parade in New York City on Monday.
It’s the world’s largest celebration of Italian heritage and it all happens on Fifth Avenue.
Columbus Citizens Foundation is the nonprofit organization that puts on the parade. Marian Pardo is the board chair and says the parade has roots going back to 1929.
On Monday, more than 100 groups made their way uptown starting at 47th Street and ending at 72nd Street.
Leading them was Grand Marshal Beth Paretta of Paretta Autosport, a woman-owned and woman-driven IndyCar team.
"It’s the idea of certainly being a woman who’s doing some nontraditional things, maybe some extraordinary things, and ideally setting the example for other young women of what they can achieve," Paretta said. "I’m also very interested in making sure that we’re encouraging young women to study STEM education and how it leads to great careers."
Despite this massive celebration, the city no longer recognizes the day as Columbus Day. It’s now referred to as ‘Italian Heritage and Indigenous Peoples’ Day’ to acknowledge Native Americans.
On Randall’s Island, the Red Hawk Native American Arts Council held a three-day celebration of their culture filled with dance, food, and ceremonies. It’s also a protest against Columbus Day highlighting historical injustices.
Cliff Matias is an event director.
"All these horrible things that Columbus Day brought to what they consider the New World – but it was our ‘old world’ – we celebrate that, that we have survived and that’s what we do here and why we assemble here on Randall’s Island," Matias said.
Back on Fifth Avenue, about 35,000 parade participants marched uptown as thousands more spectators waved Italian flags.
In addition to putting on the annual parade, the Columbus Citizens Foundation gives out scholarships to students in needs and has awarded more than $36 million dollars in scholarships since its inception.