By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Frankie Marra has a stern warning for people who enjoy beloved southern Brooklyn traditions like the annual Children’s Ragamuffin Parade: Support them or they’ll fade away into memory.
“If you don’t support these things, they go away,” Marra told a roomful of civic leaders and elected official at the annual Ragamuffin Parade Luncheon at the Bay Ridge Manor catering hall on Sunday.
Marra, a musician and Bay Ridge civic activist, was honored as the Ragamuffin Person of the Year at the luncheon and surprised many in the crowded ballroom by using his acceptance speech to make a pitch for financial support and volunteers for the march that will take place next month.
The parade, a Bay Ridge tradition that began in 1967, features children marching along Third Avenue in homemade costumes. A panel of judges awards bicycles to the children wearing the best costumes. The march also features bands, floats and dancers.
The 46th Annual Ragamuffin Parade will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. on Third Avenue.
“Give money to the parade, volunteer to help out on parade day, or come out to see the parade,” Marra said, describing the various ways people can help keep the parade going.
The luncheon is held each year a few weeks before the parade to raise money for the event, according to Colleen Golden, president of Ragamuffin Inc, the parade’s sponsoring group.
Marra shared the spotlight with Karina Costantino, superintendent of School District 20 in Brooklyn, who will serve as the parade’s grand marshal.
While the parade isn’t in any immediate trouble, Marra warned that traditions and local institutions can easily fall by the wayside if they do not receive community support.
“I remember a couple of years ago, when the Alpine Theater was in danger of closing and everybody was so upset. I asked a friend of mine, “When’s the last time you went to see a movie at the Alpine?’ He told me, ‘I go to the UA in Sheepshead Bay.’ I call on everyone to support our local institutions like the Ragamuffin Parade and the parade we hold for our veterans,” he said, referring to the Memorial Day Parade held in Bay Ridge each year.
The Memorial Day Parade was in danger of extinction due to a shortage of finances, according to Marra, who said he and other activists stepped in to save it.
“If you don’t think things can disappear, they will,” Marra said.
Marra, who often performs in Bay Ridge’s bars and restaurants, was honored by Ragamuffin Inc., the parade sponsor, for his numerous endeavors, including his organization of the annual Fourth of July Family Picnic in Shore Road Park, where he and a host of other musicians perform in concert to raise money for the 68th Precinct Youth Council, the Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization (BRAVO), and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
In addition, Marra also serves as president of the Bay Ridge Saint Patrick’s Parade.
“He’s joyful, heartwarming, and honest,” Golden said as she presented Marra with his plaque. “He has touched so many and made a difference in the lives of so many others,” she said.
Golden said Marra singlehandedly raised nearly $20,000 for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Costantino, who began her educational career as a teacher in PS 104 in Bay Ridge, said she was deeply honored to serve as grand marshal of the Ragamuffin Parade. “The parade means a great deal to me because it’s all about the children. It’s their day,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle before the awards ceremony.
When it was her turn at the microphone, Costantino accepted her plaque from Golden and expressed her gratitude. “I know what a special, special community this is,” she said.
“I hope we have a magnificent day for the parade, a day like this one,” Costantino said. The weather on Sunday was picture perfect with sunny skies and warm temperatures.
Golden praised Costantino as a woman who has always put the needs of school children first. As district superintendent, Costantino is in charge of thousands of school children, as well as their teachers and principals, in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and parts of Bensonhurst.
“As a teacher, she knew what the children needed and she got it for them. We want to thank her for making a difference in our children’s lives,” Golden said.
Marra and Costantino received certificates from US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island), state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst).