Columbus Day Parade, 1980.
Photograph, black and white print, Al Holden Collection, Montauk Library Archives.
There was a flurry of Columbus Day parades from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s in Montauk’s downtown, “the pride and joy” of a man named Joseph Bosco, the engine who powered the event.
Mr. Bosco was born in Calabria, Italy, and moved to the United States at the age of 18. He split his time between New Jersey and Montauk, but never cut his ties to his native country – earthquake victims and an orphanage in Naples received his financial assistance. Mr. Bosco founded the Montauk Friends of Italy in 1974 and later changed the name to the Montauk Friends of Columbus. Locals who knew him said he was a nice, hardworking man who was extremely proud of his Italian heritage. (In Montauk he petitioned to have Italian taught at East Hampton High School. A fellow petitioner claimed at the time that one-third of the local population was of Italian heritage, which may have been the case.)
The Columbus Day parade started out with only a handful of people, but interest grew. “Joseph Bosco said they laughed four years ago when he organized approximately 20 people to march around the Circle in Montauk in celebration of Columbus Day,” said a brief in the East Hampton Star in anticipation of the 1978 event. Over time, the line of marchers swelled to include East End politicians like Perry Duryea and John Behan, as well as members of the two churches in Montauk. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force, the East Hampton Police Department, and representatives of the Knights of Columbus of Water Mill came from nearby. Dignitaries from afar included the Queens Forester Friends of Italy, and Italian Vice Consul Dr. Carlo Mignelli, who in 1978 gave a speech in Italian in honor of Christopher Columbus and even posed for photos with Mr. Bosco.
Montaukers supported the event, participating or lending a hand. Columbus Day weekend included a yearly chowder contest, and the Montauk Garden Club’s annual sale. East Hampton and Montauk School marching bands provided parade music. On the sidelines stood locals, cheering. (Ralph Urban, the Montauk School’s longtime music teacher, mentioned in an interview with the East Hampton Press that one of his tuba players nearly blew over in one windy Columbus Day parade.)
In spite of local support, the Columbus Day parade never approached the magnitude of the Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade, not even with a visit from Santa and Rudolph one year. The consensus seems to be that while St. Patrick’s Day falls at a time when a winter-weary crowd is eager to welcome spring, people in Montauk may be a bit crowd-weary when Columbus Day rolls around. Additionally, local chapters of the Sons of Italy and the Columbiettes have lost many dedicated members, as has been the case with other formerly robust organizations.
Mr. Bosco can be seen wearing a grand marshal’s sash near the front and center of this photo of the 1980 parade. Starting in 1981, there were no Columbus Day parades in Montauk for several years, although Mr. Bosco told the Starthat he raised an Italian flag on the flagpole on the Circle on Columbus Day in 1984. There was a relatively large parade in 1988 – but that was also the year Mr. Bosco left a hospital bed in New Jersey to travel to Montauk to lead the procession.
In 1989, he was too sick even to visit Montauk, his son said in his father’s obituary in the East Hampton Star. Mr. Bosco died on March 19, 1990, by which time Montauk’s Columbus Day parade had passed, as well.
by Virginia Garrison