Written by Geoffrey Walter Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00
Nearly 10,000 people lined Jericho Turnpike—or as it was known on on Sunday, June 8 as “Portugal Boulevard”—for the inaugural Portugal Day Parade through the village, easily making it the largest parade the village has celebrated in recent memory.
Lasting about two hours, the parade began on Saville Road next to Chaminade High School before turning east on to Jericho Turnpike, spanning the whole distance to Roslyn Road, where it turned south before heading east on Westbury Avenue and ending at the Hampton Street School athletic field.
More than 50 groups celebrating Portuguese heritage, as well as numerous floats and classic cars were included in the parade, the first time in about 20 years that a parade in the village has had such deep and specific Portuguese ties.
According to Mineola Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira, the previous time such a celebration was held was in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s journey to the New World.
“It was a one-off event, it was not a Portugal Day parade,” explained Pereira, an honorary grand marshals. “I don’t even think it was held at this time of year, so it wasn’t a parade that was intended to annual, so this is really the first and this is a Long Island Portugal Day parade.”
Senator. Jack Martins, R-Mineola, was involved in that parade, but could not compare the two.
“Literally 20 years is another generation where the community is certainly in a different position than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “It’s larger, our kids are in school, our kids are graduating from school... I’ve got kids who are nearly my age where I was 20 years ago, so it’s a great thing, it really is and to see that the entire community, the greater Mineola community has embraced the event really was something.”
Mineola is currently home to the largest number of Portuguese heritage in New York State.
“This is incredible,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss remarked at the size of the crowds. “The amount of spectators, the amount of participants is just stunning. This is not only a Mineola parade, this was a New York State parade.”
The entire planning process for the parade took nearly two years to bring all the different clubs together and with the village board only giving its final go-ahead this past December.
“This is a dream come true for everybody on Long Island,” said Portuguese Man of the Year Gabriel Marques, who originally expected 1,000 spectators. “You’ve got to think, three years ago, none of the clubs even talked to each other and now everybody’s coming together to do a parade.”
The parade also represents a culmination to many in the Portuguese community, a relationship that has only grown and become deeper between the people and the greater area over the years.
“The effort these organizations put into these floats is unbelievable,” Strauss added, observing the effort put into many of the decorations, including a large rooster in which its creators learned the original way to create the decorative bird then super-sized it.
Stealing the show however was the Carvalho Imports float, which is speculated to cost in the six-figure range. Owner Manny Carvalho reportedly flew several carpenters in from Panama, who worked on that country’s floats for the carnival festival, up to New York for one month to construct the float complete with wooden dancers and a confetti cannon.
“He wanted the best float, he got it,” Marques grinned.
For more photos from the Portugal Day Parade, visit facebook.com/MineolaAmerican