By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Norwegian word for "welcome" was the greeting one heard most often at the 62nd Annual Norwegian-American 17th of May Parade in Bay Ridge this weekend.
The spectators were as colorful as the marchers participating in the parade. “Nice hat!” a marcher in a Viking hat shouted at George Anderson, who was wearing a top hat bearing the colors of the Norwegian flag as he stood on 77th Street with his wife Phyllis to enjoy the parade. “Thank you!” Anderson shouted back as he gave his newfound Viking buddy a thumbs-up.
Third Avenue was a sea of Norwegian flags on parade day, Sunday, May 18. The march, which celebrates the signing of the Constitution of Norway in 1814, always takes place on the Sunday closest to May 17. Sponsored by the Norwegian-American 17th of May Committee, the march, which is also known as the Norwegian Day Parade, is one of Bay Ridge's most longstanding traditions.
The theme of this year’s parade was “200 Years of Democracy.” This year marked the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian constitution.
The participants marched along Third Avenue from 80th Street to 69th Street and then up 69th Street to Fifth Avenue. On Fifth Avenue, they marched for two blocks to 67th Street and finished their big day in Leif Ericson Park on 67th Street, where the reviewing stand was located. A post-parade ceremony took place at the reviewing stand.
The one and only Eddie the Eagle, the beloved mascot of the Brooklyn Eagle, was a big hit at the reviewing stand, shaking hands with his many fans.
The parade featured marchers dressed in Norwegian folk dress, replicas of Viking ships, kids kicking around a soccer ball as the walked along Third Avenue, cops on horseback representatives of Sons of Norway lodges from as far away as Pennsylvania, and plenty of marching bands. Not all of the participants were Norwegian. Several Irish bagpipe bands took part in the parade, giving the event even more of an international flavor.
Arlene Rutuelo, the parade’s general chairman, marched with other committee members behind the group’s banner. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) marched with them. Rutuelo is the owner of Nordic Delicacies, a food market at 6909 Third Ave. that specializes in Norwegian goods. The shop serves as a kind of town hall for Bay Ridge’s Norwegian-American community.
Jillian McDonald, who recently won the Miss Norway of Greater New York contest, was also a big hit. She rode the parade route in a convertible and waved at the spectators who were cheering for her. At one point, she spotted John Quaglione in the crowd of spectators and shouted greetings to him. Quaglione, who was watching the march with his wife Kerry and their daughter Natalie, served as a judge in the Miss Norway pageant.
Quaglione is the deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn). Quaglione’s boss was marching in the parade. In fact, several elected officials took part in the event. Public Advocate Letitia James walked the parade route with Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and Domenic Recchia, who is running for the Bay Ridge congressional seat. The man who currently holds that seat, U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, also walked the parade route, shaking hands with spectators.