MIDTOWN — Thousands of Italophiles marched up Fifth Avenue on a chilly Monday morning for the city's annual Columbus Day Parade.
“It’s really exciting to be here,” said Maria Briandi, 50, who came from Palermo, Sicily, with her family to celebrate. “I’m proud to be Italian.”
A slew of city streets were shut down to make room for almost 1 million spectators and more than 35,000 parade-goers who marched from 44th Street to 72nd Street in the 72nd annual parade.
The festivities kicked off at 11:30 a.m. and were led by Grand Marshal Robert LaPenta of the Columbus Citizens Foundation.
Ray Colucci, 79, a sanitation worker from Jackson Heights who’s been attending the parade since 1979, said Columbus Day has become a tradition similar to his family dinners.
Ray Colucci, 79, said the Columbus Day Parade reminds him of "tradition" like big family dinners he'd have every Sunday. pic.twitter.com/Go9oP4SrrS— Ben Fractenberg (@fractenberg) October 10, 2016
“[It’s] my heritage. Tradition,” he said.
Heritage also brought out Talia Smith, 19, who is studying Italian in college so that she can travel there this summer.
“I feel really proud to be part of such a wonderful group of people,” she said. “It’s really exciting.”
Elected officials like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James also made appearances in the parade.
The politicians also took time out to express grief over the loss of Ken Thompson, the Brooklyn District Attorney who died Sunday after a battle with cancer, and speak out against presidential candidate Donald Trump.
But 11-year-old Steiger Debil from Elmont, Long Island, was simply happy not to be in school.
He said his favorite aspect of the parade was “the marching bands — their catchy music.”