The Council of Italian-American Societies of Greater Bridgeport is moving the 110th annual Columbus Day Parade to Shelton on Sunday Oct. 7, coinciding with Shelton Day.  

For the first time in its history, the parade will not march through the streets of Bridgeport, due to financial considerations, said Council Treasurer Chris Caruso. He said Bridgeport officials are charging organizations a significant fee to help offset police overtime for parades in the city.

“Since we are unable to charge an admission to watch the parade, the decision for us was financial and based solely on affordability,” Caruso and Council members said in a statement. “On behalf of the Council, we would like to thank Mayor Mark Lauretti and the City of Shelton. Through their generosity and welcoming spirit, a 110-year-old tradition will continue."

Stepping off at noon, the parade — the oldest Columbus Day parade in Connecticut — will feature the Quantico Marine Corps Band, the Uptown String Band (also known as the Mummers),  the Shriners, an Italian marching band from New York City, an Italian dance troupe, the 2nd Company Governor’s Horse Guard, Port 5 Naval Veterans Color Guard, the Marine Corps Leagues, bagpipe and fife and drum units, local school and scout groups, police and fire units and much more.

The parade will coincide with the annual Shelton Day festivities. The exact parade route will be announced at a later date, organizers said. All other events that make up the Columbus Celebration will take place in Bridgeport as planned, and the Council will continue to be headquartered in the city.

Grand Marshal for the 2018 parade is Richard Iannucci, commander of Port 5 Naval Veterans in Bridgeport and a retired U.S. Navy master chief. Iannucci was born in Bridgeport and grew up in “The Hollow,” an area of the city around Saint Raphael Church and Nanny Goat Park that many Italian families called home.

“As an Italian American filled with pride for my heritage, I’m honored to lead this year’s 110th Columbus Day Parade in Shelton,” Iannucci said. “We’ve worked overtime to make sure there’s something for everyone – young and old. At noon, the Marines lead us down Howe Avenue to the ever-popular Shelton Day festivities. The Uptown String Band (Mummers) won’t be far behind while the Pyramid Shriners’ cars, mini-bikes and clowns thrill the children. So, bring your neighbors, friends and families to live the Italian tradition.”

Caruso echoed Iannucci’s sentiments, inviting one and all to join the fun in Shelton.

“It is with sadness and regret that the Columbus Day Parade was forced to leave Bridgeport this year,” he said. “Most of all, we’ll miss the thousands of loyal families who for countless years lined Wayne Street and Madison Avenue to catch a glimpse of the parade. It is our sincere hope that the people of Bridgeport will join us in Shelton. Please accept our invitation to help us celebrate and keep alive the 110-year-old tradition.”

The Council will officially install Iannucci at a Grand Marshal Dinner and Parade Sashing at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 27, at Sportivo Italian-American Club, 2500 Park Avenue, Bridgeport. For tickets to that event, contact Chairperson Judy Marella at (203) 260-3808 or mgiantfan@aol.com.

According to organizers, the Council’s parade is one of the oldest Columbus Day parades in the northeastern United States. It’s 21 years older than the New York City parade that began in 1929.

In 1908, a group of Bridgeport Italians organized Connecticut’s very first Columbus Day Parade and Celebration to honor the discoverer Christopher Columbus. The first parade route was nine miles long and it traversed the City of Bridgeport. President Theodore Roosevelt sent a Marine Band to march in the parade and dispatched United States naval vessels to dock in Bridgeport’s harbor for public view.

Also in 1908, the Bridgeport Italian community petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly to make Columbus Day an official state holiday. In the following year, the petition was granted and the holiday established.

The Columbus Day Parade is part of a weeks-long celebration, featuring free concerts, the Columbus Leadership Awards, a chili cook-off and much more. For more information and a schedule of events, contact Bob Sherman at footdoc7777@gmail.com or (203) 556-4097.