OC Columbus Day Parade and Italian Fest is Stronger Than the Storm and Fire
No boardwalk fire will be stopping Ocean County's 22nd Annual Columbus Day Parade and Italian Festival from stepping off in Seaside Heights next month. Organizers are putting the finishing touches on the massive three-day event that runs from Friday October 11th to Sunday October 13th.
Parade Committee Chairman Michael Blandina says they're in the process of bringing everything together and looking for new funding sources. They're also getting the bands in place.
As far as the parade's history, Blandina explains the event began a little over two decades ago as a much smaller event, the festival was only intended to be a one-time two-day event to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America, costing about $40,000 to put on. Since that time, Blandina says it's grown to a three-day Italian Festival and parade that has also grown in size from 9 bands to some 19 bands, organizations and groups, floats and antique cars ... costing an estimated $125,000 to put on.
"The biggest expenses are that we pay for the buses and the hotels for them, floats that are in the parade, the bands that are in the parade are an expense. The entertainment in the festival alone is in excess of $30,000 for the weekend, Blandina explains."
Blandina says neither all the food nor the organizations represented will be completely Italian, even though most will be. He explains the Parade and Italian Festival is a family event and will offer food that appeals to non-Italian taste as well.
He's also putting the call out for more volunteers, calling it a frightful undertaking for just a small group of people. He says they can always use help whether it's Marshaling the parade, helping to set up and to take down. He says those interested in volunteering can call him at 732-814-6365 or 732-477-6507 or visit columbusnj.org
Ocean County teens and college age students, especially those of Italian Heritage, are encouraged to volunteer to actually meet the Italian nationals visiting as part of the invited dance troops. "High school aged people or college aged student, get involved with us now, you'll see what it's about, you'll get to see people from Italy who you might even grow a bond. We've had some people of the years who keep in contact with these people and I think it's a great thing."
Blandina says they're also really looking for organizations and groups that would like to participate. Interested organizations are asked to call 732-477-6507.
The Ocean County Columbus Day Parade and Italian Festival runs from Friday October 11th to Sunday October 13th with the Parade kicking off on the Boulevard in Seaside Heights. Blandina says there will be a Flag raising ceremony at the Ocean County Administration Building, followed by an event to welcome guest from Italy at 12 noon at Mancini Hall at the Ocean county Library where the dance group will be performing for the first time.
The Parade Committee will also be hosting a number of fundraising events as the weekend approaches.
Listen to a conversation with Michael Blandina