"This is something that touched the heart, something that goes to the roots of people passing to the new generation," said one spectator who is a native of Italy.
"I think this is a really good thing because I see a lot of cultures coming together which is pretty much what New York encompasses," another spectator said.
More than 100 different groups marched up Fifth Avenue from the 40s to the 70s in Manhattan. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who is of Italian descent, received a humanitarian award. Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, and Gov. Kathy Hochul also attended.
"I love it, this is so New York," Hochul said. "It's our first holiday parade since the pandemic hit and I can't wait to show everyone that New York is back."
With the city's general election just a month away, Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams didn't march but Republican candidate Curtis Sliwa did. Sliwa shared his thoughts on some of the controversy surrounding Columbus Day.
"In any period of history you have the good, the bad and the ugly, that's just the way it's been," Sliwa said. "You don't all of a sudden throw the baby out with the bathwater. Christopher Columbus for a lot of Italian Americans represented the struggle when they came to America."
On Friday, Joe Biden became the first president to issue a proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples' Day. He also acknowledged the death and destruction that native communities suffered after Columbus journeyed to North America in the late 1500s.
We heard some mixed reactions out here along the parade route.
"I think there's a culture happening that wants to be more inclusive and to sort of celebrate all of the great cultures that have helped build America and we're doing that today," Natasha Mauriello said. She and her family now call the day Italian Heritage Day.
"To me, it's always going to be Columbus Day. I was born in Italy, I'm proud to be Italian, I'm proud of the contribution that Italian Americans have made to this country," parade chairman Aldo Verrelli said. "To me, it's always going to be a Columbus Day — he was a great explorer."
In New York City, Italian American activists complained in May after the Board of Education erased Christopher Columbus Day from the New York City school calendar, replacing it with "Indigenous People’s Day." Following the outcry, the schools changed the designation to: "Italian Heritage Day/Indigenous People’s Day."
De Blasio said he supported the compromise.
"We have to honor that day as a day to recognize the contributions of all Italian Americans, so of course the day should not have been changed arbitrarily," de Blasio said.
With The Associated Press.