NEW YORK - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was named the grand marshal of the 76th annual Columbus Celebration Weekend which is going virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Italian-American's leadership during the pandemic and his strong ties to his Italian heritage were factors in selecting Cuomo, announced the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
A virtual gala will be held on Oct. 10 and a socially distanced wreath-laying ceremony will take place at Columbus Circle on Oct. 11. A 90-minute broadcast special will air on Columbus Day, Oct. 12. Pre-taped segments will be featured and a live performance is scheduled from the Italian home of the world-renowned singer Andrea Bocelli.
"I am humbled to join the ranks of distinguished Italians and Italian-Americans who have served in this special role before me, and I thank the Columbus Citizens Foundation for all they do to support this community here in New York and across the country," said Cuomo. "This has been a challenging year, and as we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of the Italian community virtually this year, I look forward to the day we can once again celebrate together because when we stand united, nothing can break us."
Past Grand Marshals of New York's Columbus Day Parade have included: Sophia Loren; Frank Sinatra; Luciano Pavarotti; Lidia Bastianich; Governor Mario Cuomo; Joe DiMaggio; Mario Andretti; Roberto Cavalli and Maria Bartiromo.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (Photo by Al Drago - Pool/Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease specialist who is a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was named an honoree and "for his unflappable dedication to keeping Americans safe."
Last month, the foundation announced that a virtual parade would replace the usual festivities that began in 1929. The route is along Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 72nd Street in Manhattan.
"Due to COVID-19, we have decided in the best interests of our members, participants and spectators not to have our parade as usual," Angelo Vivolo chairman of the Columbus Citizens Foundation, said in a video, which appears on the group's website and YouTube channel. "This has been a year of challenges for our Italian-American community and the country. But I promise we will be back bigger and better next year."
By "challenges," Vivolo was likely referring to the controversies over many historical figures, including Christopher Columbus, and the vandalization of and tearing down of statues and monuments.
The pandemic has forced the cancelation of many other prominent annual outdoor events and celebrations in the city, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade in March, the Puerto Rican Day Parade in June, the West Indian Day Parade in September, and the New York City Marathon in November.
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