Columbus Day Parade hits 5th Ave.

October 12, 2009 2:33:13 PM PDT
New York City's Columbus Day Parade featured a modern-day explorer. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was among the participants in the parade, which stepped off at midday in Manhattan.

More than 30,000 people participated in the parade, paying tribute to all things Italian, from the country of Italy to it's distinguished sons and daughters and to those intrepid Italians who left its shores for the new world, helping make it what it is today.

SLIDESHOW: Images of Parade

"Christopher discovered America," New Jersey resident Madeleine Raso said. "Everybody comes over here for a better life."

"The message to me is our Italian heritage," Long Islander Arthur Panebianco said. "That my parents were born in Italy. But I was born here. And it's just the richness of the Italian heritage that I hope to enjoy today."

The 65th annual parade did just what it always does - decorate Fifth Avenue in red, white and green.

"We're all Italians for one day," Bronx resident Karim Simmons said. "It's a diverse city. And New York City is famous for having all the parades for all walks of life. So you don't have to be Italian to enjoy the parade."

But for Italians, it feels extra special.

"We are Italian and we are proud to be Italian," Connecticut resident Joseph DeVita said. "First, we are proud to be American. And then Italian."

Ken Langone was this year's grand marshal. He is a venture capitalist who co-founded Home Depot. Langone's parents mortgaged their home to send him to college. Now, he is honored for his success and philanthropy, for giving hundreds of millions to universities, hospitals and foundations.

"It means, to me, a time to reflect on how great America has been to all of us, and how much each of us have an obligation to make sure the American dream stays alive and well," he said.

The organization that runs the parade raised nearly $2 million that provided 600 students with scholarships.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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