In the decades Nutley and Belleville have held their joint Columbus Day parade, organizers have never skimped on the spectacle. And this year’s celebration of Italian heritage, scheduled for this Sunday, won’t be any different.
Among the attractions will be a working calliope, a dancing “Super Mario” and -- yes -- a gondolier.
On roller skates, no less.
“What I did was I made a gondolier costume, with a boat about seven feet long,” Mike Perrone, a Belleville businessman and one of the parade organizers. “Then somebody suggested the person go on roller skates. It was supposed to be like a clown thing, comical.”
But when Perrone and others actually saw their skater in action, gliding along to “O Sole Mio,” they were more moved than amused.
“He was just so graceful, you have to see it,” said Perrone, who has built attractions seen in parades through the years by hand. “The whole idea of it being kind of funny just disappeared.”
The parade steps off this year at 1:30 pm at Nutley High School, 300 Franklin Ave., and proceeds south on Franklin, ending at Belleville High, 100 Passaic Ave., not far from the reviewing stand at Joralemon and Passaic.
More than 8,000 spectators are expected to view an event that will also include 1,000 participants accompanying 90 different attractions, including floats, custom vehicles, marching bands, representation of local organizations and balloons.
One of Sunday’s attractions, video game icon Super Mario, will be portrayed by Perrone himself, who will be dancing along to the sounds of the calliope he built with fellow Bellevilleite Jeff Mattingly.
Perrone has already gone on a dry run, “crashing” the Hackensack Columbus Day parade this past weekend.
“We just kind of showed up at the end. I danced the whole time, but the parade was a lot longer than I thought,” he said. “It was kind of exhausting.”
This year’s Grand Marshal is Paul Alongi. The other honorees in this year’s parade are: Nutley Woman of the Year – Mary Perrotta; Nutley Man of the Year – Sabino (Sam) Battaglia; Belleville Woman of the Year – Barbara Freda; Belleville Man of the Year – Antonio Iovino; Columbus Lifetime Achievement Award – Bina Spatola and Gerald Spatola O’Connor; Italian Heritage Award – the Rev. Dante DiGirolamo; Renaissance Man – Daniel Fanelli; Nutley Bella Signorina.