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Bethel Sets Sail To Celebrate Columbus Day With Parade

The raising of the Italian flag is a traditional feature of many Columbus Day celebrations.
The raising of the Italian flag is a traditional feature of many Columbus Day celebrations. Photo Credit: Carolyn Mueller

BETHEL, Conn. - In many communities, flag-raisings will be held to highlight Italian contributions to American history over Columbus Day weekend. 

But on Monday morning, when Columbus Day is celebrate, Bethel will the place to be. Christopher Columbus himself will arrive at P.T. Barnum Square after a short parade. 

Gina Clarizio will once again appear as Queen Isabella and a new actor will portray Christopher Columbus in the annual event. 

Geraldine Mills, one of the originators, along with Clarizio, of Bethel's Columbus Day traditions, encourages families to bring their children to town by 8:30 or 8:40 a.m. Monday to witness the procession.

It will kick off at 8:45 a.m. from the Caraluzzi's Bethel Food Market parking lot, proceed down South Street to Blackman Avenue, and wind up at P.T. Barnum Square at 9 a.m., according to Billy Michael, another of the parade originators. 

"It's 30 seconds longer than last year's!" he said of the parade route.

The parade has taken place in town for more than 25 years. Mills pointed out that the babies who were brought to watch the first parade in the 1980s are now parents bringing their own children to the event. She also recommends parade-goers gather at the Sycamore Diner for breakfast after the parade. 

Mills enjoys reminiscing about these Columbus Day traditions, which began when her husband, Ed, was first selectman of Bethel. She recalls her husband contacting the Board of Education about changing the school calendar to include a day off for Columbus Day, once he learned that Bethel kids were scheduled to have school that day.

Although Mills will not be able to attend this year's festivities, she has in the past taken care to share information about Italian history as a speaker at the ceremonies at P.T. Barnum Square. She is sure to be thinking of the participants this year, as she celebrates her 86th birthday on Columbus Day this year.

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