By Aaron Keebaugh
Over 300 residents, visitors, city officials, and politicians from the local, state, and national levels packed the main hall of the Beachmont VFW Monday morning for the Columbus Day Breakfast.
The event, the culmination of months-long efforts by the Columbus Day Parade Committee, served as a kickoff fundraiser to bring back to Revere a former city tradition, the annual Columbus Day parade.
“It’s been a tradition here in Revere,” Mayor Dan Rizzo said of the parade. “When I was running for mayor, I sensed that there was still an appetite for a Columbus Day Parade.”
DeMaino’s Restaurant supplied the buffet-style breakfast. Honey Dew Donuts donated the coffee.
While guests ate and mingled with one another, accordionist Joe Balzotti strolled about the hall performing popular songs like “That’s amore,” which he sang to the accompanying sounds of his instrument.
Cadets from the Revere High School JROTC, under the instruction of Major Deborah Bowker and Sgt. Major Rob Callender, presented the colors Monday morning.
Massachusetts State Police Sgt. James Connor offered a stirring a cappella rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The event that morning included political comedy—performed by several of the nine guest speakers—in a vein similar to “The Capital Steps” radio programs. Many of the speakers took the chance to roast Mayor Rizzo and each other, loosening their collars for a moment in an otherwise contentious election season.
Congressman Ed Markey joked that Mayor Rizzo, due to his service in the US Navy, was “the second greatest italian sailor after Columbus.” He also took a jab at former Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
State Senator Anthony Petruccelli quipped to Rizzo that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was not able to attend because he had a last-minute meeting with Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and New England Revolution.
Rizzo also joked that House Speaker Robert DeLeo is “the second most powerful politician after Julius Caesar.” DeLeo returned the remark with one of his own, saying that Rizzo was “one of those modern-day mayors who doesn’t wear a tie.” He continued, “Christopher Columbus came to Revere Beach first, but Columbus couldn’t land in Revere because of the [piping] plovers.”
Congressman and former Somerville Mayor Mike Capuano offered a few zingers of his own. “I really just wanted to come to breakfast with people who don’t butcher my name,” he said to the crowd. Of Revere, he joked, “I remember with fondness the fights after the football games, the fights after the basketball games, the fights during the little league games. I remember coming to Revere to steal cars. I remember you coming to Somerville to steal cars.”
State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein took the chance to jab at almost every public official on recent issues. To guest speaker Gail Huff she offered a bag of laundry for her husband, Senator Scott Brown, to fold. Inside was a T-shirt bearing Elizabeth Warren’s name. “How did that get in there?” Reinstein joked to laughter from the audience and Huff. To Councillor Brian Arrigo, she jokingly asked if he had received his “fair share” of breakfast food. And she mentioned that Everett State Rep. ‘Stat’ Smith (who was not in attendance) would be holding a party at his apartment buildings following the breakfast.
But joking aside, the speakers took time to commend the city in its efforts to bring back the parade.
State Treasurer Steven Grossman said the Columbus Day parade is “an incredible tradition we are part of,” and that he looked forward to marching in the Revere parade next year.
Gail Huff, herself a former broadcast journalist, said it was important for the city to bring back the parade. In her brief comments she recalled that she remembered the parade well, saying that she covered it while she worked in broadcasting.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump, recalling her memories of watching the Columbus Day parade during her childhood along the Housatonic River, said parades join communities and provide an opportunity for residents to share their values.
Petruccelli said the planned parade is “an important part of Revere moving forward.”
Said Capuano: “It’s very important to remember our own cultures, [and] it’s also important to celebrate other cultures… We are all mutts, but we should all be proud of who we are.”
During a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce last Wednesday evening, Columbus Day Parade Committee members reported they had raised $19,150, just shy of their $20,000 goal, from donations and ticket sales for the breakfast.
Executive Secretary Sofia Forgione reported this week that the committee has raised well over $20,000 from the fundraiser.
Though they were slotted to speak at the breakfast, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, and State Senator Jack Hart were unable to attend Monday morning.
The Columbus Day Parade Committee sent breakfast invitations to Senator John Kerry and Democratic Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren, but neither were able to attend due to tight schedules, Mayor Rizzo said.