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Early Columbus parade a success

Like its namesake, the parade honoring Christopher Columbus set foot in a new world Saturday.

Bands, dancers, floats, marchers, Shriners and onlookers waving Italian flags took the streets as the 19th Annual Christopher Columbus Italian Heritage Parade traveled along Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, a change from its traditional site Downtown.

The parade coincided with the second annual celebration of “Little Italy Days,” a three-day heritage festival sponsored by the Bloomfield Business Association.

Despite the location change and overcast skies, thousands of people lined the parade route, cheering and trying to catch candy thrown from passing floats.

“I go wherever the parade is, always,” said JoAnn Hannigan, of Oakland, who claimed a seat in the bleachers at the parade finish line about an hour before the start.

Having the parade in the heart of the city’s Italian neighborhood and combining it with the ethnic festival “shows the true feeling of Pittsburgh,” Hannigan said.

Michael Tarquinio, the head of the heritage parade committee, said his group thought it would be a good move to hold the parade in conjunction with the festival, which runs through 7 p.m. today.

“(Bloomfield) is still in the city of Pittsburgh,” Tarquinio said, adding that many major cities hold their annual Columbus Day parades in their respective “Little Italy” sections rather than in a downtown area.

Moving the parade to Bloomfield meant organizers needed to hire just three off-duty police officers to control crowds and traffic instead of 20 Downtown, Tarquinio said.

To accommodate both events, festival organizers and parade organizers juggled their schedules and agreed on the end of September rather than near Oct. 12, which is Columbus Day.

“We compromised,” Tarquinio said.

Even before the two-hour parade ended, the parade committee and festival organizers had decided that the two were a good fit.

“We’re in for next year,” Tarquinio said as the last band marched past the judges.


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