For the eighth consecutive year, the East Hanover Italian American Club (EHIAC) will host the Morris County Columbus Day Parade Sunday at Lurker Park.
"It's going to be bigger and better than ever," John Pasquarosa of the EHIAC said. "Every year we're growing."
EHIAC started the parade in 2004 as a neighborhood event, but over the years it has evolved into a festival with three events, beginning with the Columbus Day Dinner Dance and annual awards ceremony Saturday and ending with the parade at 2 p.m. Sunday.
This year's parade, Pasquarosa said, "will celebrate the life of Ralph Politi. He was very active in the town, with softball for his daughter and on the Board of Education," Pasquarosa said.
Politi was killed in a car accident earlier this year.
Janine Strafaci of News 12 New Jersey will serve as the parade emcee, and Lisa Marie Latino of Long Shot Productions will be the parade interviewer.
Pasquarosa said Italian police officers from the New York Police Department will march in this year's parade, and Italian officers from East Hanover will march in the Columbus Day Parade in New York City on Monday.
In 2011, one volunteer with the parade created a float with a replica of the World Trade Center towers to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. "We decided to bring out that float again," Pasquarosa said. A banner between the towers will read, "God Bless America, Thank You NYPD" and list other agencies dedicated to homeland security and fighting terrorism.
The parade honors distinguished Italian Americans from throughout New Jersey. The 2012 Honorees, who will be given their awards at Saturday's dinner, include two journalists, one Italian American newspaper and two executives.
The Grand Marshal of this year's parade is Ken Rosato, a news anchor with WABC-TV Eyewitness News. The Man of the Year is Andre Chiavelli, executive vice president of Corporate Strategy with Emiliani Enterprises, and the Woman of the Year is Maria Cucciniello, a marketing executive for Luxury Brands and founder of The Hip Event.
This year, the EHIAC has created a new award for those who, "through their life's work, promote their Italian heritage," according to a statement on the EHIAC website.
The award is called Ace Alagna Italian Heritage Award. It is named after Ace Alanga, an Italian American who worked as a photographer with the Star-Ledger and the White House Press Corps before he went to work for the Italian Tribune, now the largest Italian American newspaper in the country.
Sunday morning before the parade, the EHIAC will host the first Columbus Day 5k. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. at Lurker Park on Ridgedale Avenue, weather permitting.
Once the race ends, preparations for the parade begin. "There'll be a festival atmosphere," Pasquarosa said, complete with Italian foods, carnival rides, booths and stands for volunteers and community organizations, all in Lurker Park.
The awards dinner will be held Saturday at Hanover Manor. Tickets can be purchased by calling (973) 884-0671.