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Article Published September 22, 2019
Historic Columbus Day Parade Returns for Branford's 375th Anniversary
Pam Johnson, Senior Staff Writer

Sunday, October 13, 2019 will be a historic day in Branford. That's when the Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade – the largest parade of its kind in New England -- steps off here to help celebrate Branford's 375th anniversary.

"This great parade is one of the most anticipated events of the year as we celebrate our 375th anniversary," said Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove.

Six towns, including Branford, East Haven, West Haven, Hamden, New Haven and North Haven, rotate the annual honor of hosting the parade. This year's event marks the return of the parade to Branford, which first hosted it in 2013. In addition to welcoming the parade back, Cosgrove assisted the committee with the selection of two community members as Parade Grand Marshals: Vincent Giordano Jr. and Betty Ann Donegan (see related story).

The always-exciting parade is expected to draws thousands of spectators to see the spectacle on Main Street. Stepping off at 1:30 p.m., the parade will bring in excess of 125 units past dignitaries, honored guests and parade judges in the official reviewing stand on the town green before concluding at Branford High School (185 East Main Street).

"There will be a lot of surprises," said Columbus Day Executive Committee of Greater New Haven President Paul Criscuolo, a Branford resident.

Attendees will be thrilled by high performance participants and precision marching units from across New England who come to play and win top honors from judges in this family-friendly parade. There will be clowns clowning around with the crowd and fan-favorites including a variety of ancient fife and drum corps, marching bands and special parade floats. The parade also brings marchers representing Italian-American organizations from across the Greater New Haven area, marching among many organizations proudly representing a wide variety of cultures, together with dozens of community music units, marching groups, clubs, teams and schools.

Criscuolo, who has served as the executive committee's president for about nine years now, also heads up the annual Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade Committee. Members of 2019 Parade Committee, all Branford residents, are Criscuolo, Louis Criscuolo (no relation), Peter Desio, Terri Vailette and Lou Onofrio.  Laura Florio Luzzi  is Chairman of the Board of the 2019 Columbus Day Executive Committee.

While the parade has been celebrating 16th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus since its inception among New Haven's Italian-American community in 1892, it's grown into a celebration of many cultures that welcomes participants from all walks of life. The parade's special element of community spirit and participation is always a key component to the day's excitement and success, said Criscuolo.

"This is a regional, multi-cultural, 100-percent family-oriented parade," said Criscuolo.  "Anyone who wants to be in the parade can be in the parade. We've also solicited participation from all the local schools and we'd love to have more local units and children's units involved."

Schools, groups and others interested in joining the parade still have time to sign up: contact Andrea Kenny at Branford Parks and Recreation at (203) 315-2355; email akenny@branford-ct.gov or contact the Parade Committee at (203) 710-2223.

For those who march, it will be an historic opportunity to participate in a memorable parade, said Criscuolo.

"This year is really special, because we're honoring Columbus Day and we're honoring Branford's 375th anniversary. We've invited the governor and our senators and a lot of dignitaries to attend," he said.

Government leaders don't confirm appearances until the day of the parade; but for many years, a big supporter of the parade has been New Haven-based U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who also served as a 2018 parade marshal. This year, DeLauro heads up a list of dignitaries planning to attend the parade committee's gala Columbus Day Heritage Dinner on Thurs. Oct. 10, at Anthony's Oceanview in New Haven. Tickets, $55, are available at the Branford First Selectman's Office, Branford Recreation Office, or by calling (203) 444-4324 or emailing fasttrack822@gmail.com

Another event will take place immediately following the Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade in Branford on Oct. 13: a post-parade party at Branford's Italian American (IA) Social Club, 40 Hamre Lane, hosted by the club. Wristbands for the party are $10. The event sold out last time the parade was in town.

In addition, on Sunday, Sept. 29, the Branford IA Club will be the site of an Italian cultural lecture, "Immigrants Who Settled in Branford" presented from 2 – 4 p.m. by Branford Town Historian Jane Bouley.  The free event includes refreshments and is being sponsored by the Columbus Day Committee of Greater New Haven and Sons and Daughters of Italy (Lodge 37).

As a Branford resident, Criscuolo is especially pleased to see so many in Branford embracing the return of the Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade.  He said the committee is also very thankful for the "great cooperation" of the Selectman's Office, Branford Parks and Recreation, Branford Police, Branford Fire Department and Branford Public Works.

The 2019 Greater New Haven Columbus Day Parade takes place in Branford on Sunday, Oct. 13, stepping off at 1:30 p.m. on Main Street. Recommended parking is at Branford rail station. In case of inclement weather on parade day, call Branford Recreation Department at (203) 488-8304 for updates. For more information on upcoming events and the parade, visit www.columbusdaynewhaven.org