San Francisco’s 153rd celebration of Italian Heritage came back with a roar, even with Covid-19 restrictions in place. On Friday night, October 8th, the Italian Heritage weekend began with the crowning of Queen Isabella, Grace Ann Cardenas, the knighting of Christopher Columbus as portrayed by Joseph Cervetto, Jr., and the presentation of the Royal Court (Princess, Duchesses, Contessas, Ladies in Waiting, Crown Bearer and Scroll Bearer) at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club in North Beach. This was followed by a public presentation of the Queen and Court in Washington Square Park, and then Sergio Strozzi, Italian Consul General, flipped a light switch that illuminated Saints Peter & Paul’s Italian Cathedral and the Club with the colors of the Italian flag. Even City Hall was aglow with the Green, White, and Red. Beautiful! The next night, there was a lovely reception at the Italian Consulate for the Court, their families, and the Board of DiSunday morning started with a solemn High Mass at Saints Peter and Paul. Attending was Queen Isabella and her Royal Court, Christopher Columbus, the Knights of Columbus, dignitaries, Past State President Maria Fassio Pignati, State Queen Brianna Simon with her mom and past State Queen Suzanne Simon, Brianna’s aunt Past State Queen Pam Buldo and Brianna’s grandmother Judie Buldo, Columbia Lodge #1940 President Angelo Fanucchi and Recording Secretary Angie Fanucchi, who rode in the parade, and members from other lodges. The Knights of Columbus formed an arch in church with their swords, under which the Queen and her Court and Columbus processed, all in historical dress.
We then drove down to the assembly area by Fisherman’s Wharf to decorate our cars for the oldest continuous celebration of its kind in the United States. Traveling from the Wharf to North Beach, it was so gratifying to see people assembled along the parade route, and you could feel the enthusiasm for the first post-Covid shutdown parade held.
I was honored to represent our State President Barbara Wisniewski in a convertible. In the next car was our lovely State Queen Brianna Simon who represented us beautifully. We were able to ride in the parade thanks to the continued generosity of Dick Ghilotti of Ghilotti Construction, who provided our cars and an antique vehicles that participated in the festivities, which featured 80 entries from as far north as Sacramento and as far south as San Diego. This year’s Parade Grand Marshal was Graziano Cerchiai, a member of the Cornelia-Vita Nuova Lodge #1198 and patriarch and owner of the iconic Bimbo’s 365 Club in North Beach. The weather was beautiful so after the parade we were treated to an exciting show by the amazing and nerves-of-steel Blue Angels, who flew into town for Fleet Week. It was a great weekend to show our Italian pride!
Please make every effort to protect Columbus Day in the United States against the growing threats that have placed it in danger. If someone is trying to remove Columbus Day recognition from your area, contact your legislators and tell them to protect this holiday that honors not only the amazing achievement of an Italian navigator who opened up the world, but also the 26 million-plus Americans of Italian descent that helped create our great nation. While it is important that our indigenous brothers and sisters are justly honored for their ancient heritage, it should not be at the expense of ours. Our National Lodge, in conjunction with our Commission for Social Justice, is working hard to preserve this holiday. Please contact them for further information and to obtain pamphlets with historically correct information about the great navigator. Please don’t think Columbus Day is safe, please don’t wait for someone else to save it, and please don’t wait until it is too late…act NOW to protect YOUR heritage for future generations.
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