NEW YORK (AP) -- The giant head of Christopher Columbus atop a float rolled down New York City’s Fifth Avenue on Monday as the parade named after the explorer attracted thousands of onlookers waving Italian flags.
It was a chilly autumn afternoon for the Columbus Day Parade in midtown Manhattan, where spectators cheered from the sidewalks and people draped in red, white and green energized the annual celebration of Italian-American culture. Police officers wore Italian-American sashes over their uniforms, and music from bagpipers and marching bands filled the air.
Speaking to reporters before the parade, Mayor Michael Bloomberg advised New Yorkers to go see the conceptual art installation that surrounds a 13-foot statue of the explorer with a living room. The exhibit, "Discovering Columbus," by Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi, has become a must-see cultural attraction in the city since it opened Sept. 20.
"It’s the only time in your life you’ll be able to get close to it," said the mayor, who marched in the parade along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Columbus Citizens Foundation organizes the parade, which runs from Fifth Avenue and 44th Street north to 72nd Street. The foundation says the parade includes about 35,000 participants and about 1 million spectators, and is the largest celebration of Italian-American culture in the world.
Rosie Leone, 23, of New Rochelle had painted an Italian flag on her cheek and enjoyed some limoncello -- an Italian liqueur -- before coming out for the parade with a friend.
"My parents are from Italy," she said. "So it’s a celebration of our heritage, where we come from."
Concetta Bologna, 52, of Brooklyn came out to watch family members march in the parade.
"Let’s never forget who made this country what it is today: Christopher Columbus," she said. "It’s just a great day for Italian pride."
Asked if she had any other plans for the day, Bologa said she planned to go shopping at Macy’s.
"I’m going for the sales," she said. "That’s my celebration."