Ocean County’s Columbus Day Parade isn’t complete without a Grand Marshal and this year the honor goes to local Italian specialty food store owner and philanthropist Joseph Leone-Introna.

Parade Chairman Michael Blandina says Leone-Introna was chosen not only for his support of the parade but also for his work in the community.

“He’s giving to the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean County, the UNICO charities of Brick and Point Pleasant Beach and other charitable giving in the community.”

Leone-Introna is a native of Brielle and the owner of Joe Leone’s Italian Specialty Foods in Pt. Pleasant and Joe Leone’s Gastronomia in Sea Girt.

Blandina says Leone-Introna’s success in his businesses has allowed him to give back to the community.

Blandina notes, following the earthquake of 2009 that struck the Abruzzo Region of Italy, Leone-Introna arranged an impromptu Italian Festival in front of his store in Pt. Pleasant, raising over $25,000 which Joe personally traveled to L'Aquila, Italy with van loads of daily necessities and supplies for survivors and relief workers

With all of the these accomplishments to his name, Blandina is happy to say Leone-Introna proudly continues their tradition of parade Marshals.

Leone-Introna will be honored on June 21st during the Parade Committee’s annual Grand Marshal Dinner Dance at the Crystal Point Yacht Club.

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Blandina says the dinner dance is when Leone Introna will get his sash and plaque officially honoring him as the parade’s Marshal.

He notes in addition to the fundraiser and three day festival in October capped off with the Columbus Day Parade, the Marshal is responsible for representing the community at various events throughout the year.

“In September which is our annual event at Carrabas and at the Italian flag raising, and of course the three days of the Italian festival and of course anything that may come up in between we hope they can attend.”

Blandina says the Brielle native was chosen amongst seven other candidates this year, and really embodied what they were looking for in a Marshall.

“We’re not just looking for someone who’s looking to get a title. We’re actually looking for what we’ve committed to in the past. Service to the community, good moral character, and interest in Italian heritage and culture.”