Parade and performers entertain Bostonians at Columbus Day celebration

Amid jugglers, magicians and storytellers, scores of children and Bostonians from throughout the city gathered at Christopher Columbus Park Monday to celebrate Columbus Day.

Kids watch performer “Juggling Jenny” during the Christopher Columbus Park Celebration Monday afternoon. PHOTO BY MICHELLE JAY/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Residents from the area, some coming as far as Jamaica Plains, gathered at the park with their families to enjoy performers, a parade and a speech by state representative Aaron Michlewitz.

“An event like this helps bring the community together,” says Joanne Hayes-Rines, president of Friends of Christopher Columbus Park. “In a city, especially in this area, there are so many people raising families, so we bring them together.”

The event began just before 11 a.m. with a bright parade through the park for children.

“There is certainly a strong North End contingent at this event, but people come from all around,” said Jennifer Thompson, also known as Jenny the Juggler. “I just saw a Girl Scout Troop I performed for a while back.”

To honor Christopher Columbus, the FOCCP invited Mass. Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, of Boston, to speak and lay a wreath on the statue in front of a crowd teaming with children of all ages, parents and passers-by.

“This is to celebrate our heritage because Christopher Columbus has such a large impact on the Italian community,” said FOCCP member Liz Greene, while gesturing to an Italian flag draped in front of the statue. “This is a fun day for families with children so we try to make it meaningful.”

FOCCP also sponsors picnics and Independence Day celebrations to make families in the area feel welcome.

The organization, with the help of a team of volunteers, spends weeks cleaning the park and planning.

“The fact that the community has shown so much support is astonishing,” said magician Peter O’Malley. “There are a lot more volunteers that are willing to roll up their sleeves and work for the community.”

The celebration itself serves as a fundraiser for FOCCP, which accepted donations from participants.

With support from local businesses and community members, the organization can maintain the park and the blue-lit trellis.

“This is a wonderful, affordable event for the families especially because it’s free,” said Frankie Boyer, a volunteer with the FOCCP. “We have events like this to support the park in every way, shape and form to keep the area healthy and vibrant.”

Groups of almost 50 children surrounded the performers, which included jugglers, magicians and storytellers.

Laughter and excited screams rang out throughout the park as children banged on drums and held sea life in a touch tank sponsored by the New England Aquarium.

Boston resident Barbara Chandler said the park is her family’s backyard, and it is a great space to hold activities such as this one.

“I came with four kids and they’re running around having a great time watching the magician — except for this one, she’s had a long day,” she said, gesturing to the two-year-old dozing in a stroller.

Neil Denenberg, whose wife was a volunteer at the celebration, said the park is one for all seasons.

“If you look during the day, in the parade and throughout the event, there are several hundred children blowing bubbles, playing ball and watching jugglers,” he said, “just enjoying everyone being together.”

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