By Ron Matz

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A tradition returns to Baltimore on Sunday, and there’s a lot of excitement.  The city’s Columbus Day Parade is back after a two-year absence.

Ron Matz reports the folks in Little Italy couldn’t be more proud.

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The Christopher Columbus statue looks out over the streets of Little Italy. Streets that Mary Sergi knows well since she’s lived in the area for more than 70 years and is looking forward to Sunday’s Columbus Day Parade.

“We didn’t have the parade for a couple of years and that was sad for the Italian community,” she said.  “I’m glad we got it back because of the heritage.  Christopher Columbus discovered this wonderful world, this wonderful country that we live in.”

It all starts Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Maryland Science Center at Key Highway and Light Street.

“It will proceed north on Light, east on Pratt and then south on President Street.  The reviewing stand will be at the Columbus statue at the foot of Eastern Avenue,” said Al Massa, Columbus Day Parade committee chairman.

There are other activities.

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“At 9:30 people will start gathering at the statue. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.  There will be a few dignitaries and a wreath laying.  At 11 o’clock there will be a raffle drawing to help defray the cost of the parade. At 11 there’s a brunch at Della Notte Restaurant and then a mass at St. Leo’s,” said Massa.

Economic reasons led to the parade’s cancellation for two years, but the Little Italy community has worked hard to bring it back.

“With the economy turning the way it did — the expenses for different acts to be put together, the marching bands — the focus shifted to other areas.  We had a mini procession last year from the piazza to the church to keep the celebration alive. It’s still the longest consecutive running parade in the country, 121 years,” said Massa.

“We’re bringing back a tradition.  This is one of the biggest events for the Italian-American community in Baltimore and in Maryland.  We put a lot of  effort into this parade,” said Domenic Petrucci, Columbus Day Parade committee member. “By celebrating your heritage and the accomplishments of those who came before us, you can carry that pride into the next year and the year after that and hopefully the tradition will continue forever.”

You’ll also have a chance to see the U.S. Naval Academy Marching Band, an antique fire truck from Italy and some vintage cars.

“We have bocce ball starting [Saturday] morning.  The tournament is on Stiles Street.  On Sunday, we’ll start playing at 9 o’clock with people coming from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey,” said Petrucci.  “We want a lot of people to come down. It’s a family thing.  You can walk around and after the parade there’s plenty of good food in Little Italy.  A lot of good things are happening Sunday.  We are so happy to do all this work and let the people enjoy.”

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For more information about the parade, click here.