SEASIDE HEIGHTS – For nearly three decades the borough has hosted a tribute to those of Italian heritage. The three-day weekend event includes a street fair filled with food vendors, community organization booths and strolling entertainment.
The main event however, is the Ocean County Columbus Day Parade which takes place on the last day of the festival along the Boulevard. The event ran from Oct. 11-13.
As per tradition, the autumn weekend event kicked off Friday with some DJ entertainment followed by this year’s folkloric group, Gruppo Folklorico “Città’ di Castrovillari. The group performed several times during the weekend. Bringing a folkloric group from Italy is a tradition the parade’s planning committee introduced in 1997.
The selection of the groups is arranged by a sub-committee of the parade’s planning committee. The International Relations Committee is made up of long-time members John Giavatto, Luigi Luongo and Enzo Marrano.
Giavatto, of Lakewood, said that it takes around six months to select the group. “we choose from one from the 20 regions in Italy and this year we chose a group from Calabria (La Citta’ di Castrovillari – Cosenzaz – Calabria) in Southern Italy.”
“They arrived early Friday morning. We got them to Seaside Heights at 2 a.m. their flight was four hours late,” said Giavatto, a retired Italian language teacher from Brick High School. The performers nonetheless got to Brick Township by 7 a.m. Friday in their traditional 18th century attire for a performance at the two Brick high schools.
Those programs were supported by the Brick chapter of Unico National, an Italian heritage organization and the township itself.
Emmanuele Curia celebrated his 19th birthday on Saturday, he is one of the younger members of the group and this marked his first visit to America. “I have been with the group to Albania, Germany and now the United States.”
Curia said “the youngest member is Alicea who is here with us and she is seven years old. Our oldest member is 75. We have 10 women and 16 men within our group.”
“I am studying science and administration at the University of Calabria. Music is another one of my passions. I play the guitar, bagpipe and piano. I perform with the group to keep the traditions of Calabria alive,” Curia said.
“He is multi-talented,” Giavatto said. “Those here from the group stay for a week after everything is over. We will take them to Atlantic City one day and they will go to the aquarium on the boardwalk of Point Pleasant Beach where they will also enjoy some American food at Jenkinson’s.”
“They will also spend a day in New York and Philadelphia. Many businesses and supporters help us to do this,” Giavatto said.
Other performers of the weekend festival included The Gems and the Strolling Metropolitan Festival Band, The Cameos, Patsy Palma, the Juke Box Legends with Joe Leo, Bill Sagarese and John Sebastian.
The Portuguese group Rancho Folclorico “Danca Na Eira” performed Sunday afternoon after the parade.
This year’s parade featured two co-grand marshals, Brick residents Dr. Maureen J. Persi and her husband Melindo A. Persi. The couple greeted friends and spectators along the parade route during the parade.
Parade Chairman Michael Blandina noted that while a husband and wife has served as grand marshal in the past, this was the first time a husband and wife had served in that role at the same time.
“Every year we are faced with the difficult task of selecting a person from the many deserving candidates to serve as the ceremonial leader of our Parade and Italian Festival,” screening committee member Pamela Santamaria said. “The screening committee felt Maureen and Melindo Persi should jointly be our Grand Marshals.”
“Their community involvement and leadership over the years in the educational field contributed to our decision. Especially for their leadership and efforts within Italian organizations over the years.” Santamaria added.