New Orleans is known the world over for throwing a great party. The largest event of the year, Mardi Gras, has its roots deeply imbedded in Italian tradition, but not long after Fat Tuesday, another party will take place – the St. Joseph’s Day celebrations. The annual parade and gala are organized by the Italian American Marching Club, one of the largest ethnic organizations in the southeastern United States. It was founded by Joseph Cardenia, along with his close friends in 1970 and has reached 1,500 members in recent years. Its objective is to keep the Italian heritage prevalent in New Orleans. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of immigrants from Sicily migrated to New Orleans.
The organization has incorporated the focal point of New Orleans’ festive culture into its love of their Italian heritage and they hold a huge parade each year in celebration of St. Joseph’s Day. The festivities begin with pizza, wine and Italian music. The celebratory atmosphere continues with the parade marchers dressed in black tuxedos, who proceed through New Orleans’ famous French Quarter. Thousands of residents and tourists line the streets to take part in the extravaganza. Marchers exchange salutations, hand out silk flowers and fava beans, while dancing and singing with spectators. The parade is followed by a gala in the grand ballroom of the New Orleans Hilton, where sipping wine and dancing the Tarantella goes on long into the night.
The organization allows the Italian Americans in New Orleans to enjoy the company of one another in a fun and festive environment, celebrating life and an appreciation of the heritage that binds the members together with the community that has been a vital part of New Orleans for more than a century.
The Italian American St. Joseph’s Day Parade takes place on Saturday, March 21, starting at 3:00 pm at the intersection of Convention Center Blvd. and Girod Street.