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Astorians, pols revel at parade honoring Columbus’ discovery

Astoria residents took to the streets in droves Saturday afternoon to ring in the 518th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas in October 1492.

The 31st-annual Queens Columbus Day Parade celebration in the western Queens neighborhood, hosted by the Federation of Italian American Organizations of Queens, was a chance for borough residents of all backgrounds to celebrate Italian culture as well as the origins of the country they call home.

Historical interpreters playing the parts of Columbus and his benefactor, Queen Isabella of Spain, were the stars of the event, but they were joined by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), the parade’s grand marshal; City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria); state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria); and other dignitaries.

Beginning from the PC Richards & Son parking lot at 35-18 Steinway St. and traveling along Steinway Street, 30th Avenue and 33rd Street and finally ending at Columbus Triangle at Astoria Boulevard and 31st Street, the event went through the heart of Astoria and gave local residents a chance to revel in the joyous occasion.

Robbie Conti, a 6-year-old Astoria resident, held an Italian flag as the procession passed his family. He said he enjoyed the fact that the parade brought people together.

“It’s fun seeing the people. Everyone’s having fun. I got ice cream, too!” he said, hoisting his half-eaten cone with his free hand.

The parade featured a range of entertainment, from food and bands to a traveling performance by the Broadway Dance Studio. Young members of the Astoria studio, led by instructor and choreographer Autumn Dones, danced their way through the streets to the delight of attendees.

“We not so much marched — it was more chassé and pierouettes down the street,” Dones said. “People liked it, they were clapping along, dancing.”

Rebecca Cruz-Zibit, 11, of Astoria, had never danced with the school before but said she had a great time learning the steps as she went in the parade — admitting it was a unique introduction to the school.

“It was my first day ever and I don’t know why, but I just got adjusted right away,” she said, still wearing her dance outfit as she and the troupe headed back to the studio after their performance had concluded. “It was fun but at the same time most of the girls were dancing behind me and I had to keep looking back every two seconds.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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