NUTLEY, NJ - Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade Committee held a meet and greet at Franklin Steakhouse on Monday, Feb. 12 with the honorees for the 36th annual parade to be held in October. This year’s Grand Marshal is André DiMino, communications director of One Voice Coalition and past-president of Unico National. One Voice is a coalition of Italian American activists, advocates and organizations across the United States.

DiMino’s parents immigrated from Sicily. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Woodcliff Lake, where he currently resides. He didn’t know much about the Nutley-Belleville area until he was president of Unico National and marched in the Columbus Day Parade.

“Of all the years, I am so glad to be selected as grand marshal. It is so critical with all the attacks on our heritage and those trying to fight Christopher Columbus and the Christopher Columbus holiday, for us to keep fighting and to keep parades going on,” he said referring to Columbus Day being changed to Indigenous Peoples’ Day in other locations.

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Currently Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which has replaced Columbus Day in 55 U.S. cities recognizes Native Americans instead of Christopher Columbus.

“What this committee does, I support. How dedicated they are, such a great group of people who love the parade so much. It’s really an indescribable honor to be grand marshal for such a great parade,” he added.

Other dignitaries include Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Vito Scarpelli of Nutley, Italian Heritage Award recipient Joseph Palombino and Italian Business Leader of the Year is Michael A. Maffucci.

Nutley Woman and Man of the Year are Sandra “Sam” Carella and Thomas Sposato. Belleville Woman and Man of the Year are Jeanne Lombardi and Anthony Sessa. This year’s Renaissance Man is Anthony Dalbo of Belleville.

The Community Excellence Award honoree is Barbara Hirsch of Nutley. “We give this award to people who are not Italian because we recognize that there are other people in the world that contribute greatly to our community,” said Susan LaMorte, parade committee member.

Columbus Day Parade Committee officers for 2018 are parade chair Edie Peters Liguori and co-chair is Ben Costa and Taste of Italy Chair is Vito Matturro and Co-Chair is Melissa Matturro. Committee members include Barbara Freda, treasurer and Bill Freda, Trustee. Members include The Rev. Thomas Nicastro, Joe Gencarelli, Rosemarie Costa, Diane Stanzione, Susan LaMorte, John Kelly III, Vinnie Cozzarelli, Pasquale Meola and Anthony Santasieri.

According to Gencarelli he is the only original member of the parade committee left.

Vito said, “This parade is about promoting our heritage. It’s the largest in Essex County and is recognized by the county.”

Vito also spoke about the importance of Columbus Day. “This is not going away, if we aren’t doing what we are doing here… This is an attack on our Italian heritage and our history not Christopher Columbus. Disgracing our heritage is wrong. We cannot just sit on the side lines and do nothing about it. Together we will stand strong.

Liguori added, “Otherwise we won’t have a parade like this. We won’t be able to celebrate our heritage.”

This year’s Taste of Italy will be held Sunday, March 18, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Nutley Parks and Recreation Building, 44 Park Ave.  According to Liguori the parade costs $30,000 to run and the event is the sole fundraiser for the parade.

The committee expects about 50 restaurants and bakeries to participate. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. For more information, call Vito and Melissa Matturro at 973-661-9234.

The Nutley-Belleville Columbus Day Parade will be held Oct. 7 beginning in Belleville and ending in Nutley.

Related story: Nutley-Belleville celebrates Italian Heritage at 2017 Columbus Day Parade 

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