Starting November 17th, San Francisco will be home to a series of events about Italian music, food, cinema, and opera. There will be an opportunity...
The Columbus Day Celebration, Inc., the organization which has produced the annual Italian Heritage Parade, has announced the names of the winners of the annual competition to crown the new Queen Isabella and her nine-member court. On Sunday, October 13, 2013, the ten young women will be the center of attention in San Francisco, as they ride their floats up Columbus Avenue, from Fisherman’s Wharf to San Francisco’s North Beach district.
It is part of the largest and oldest parade in San Francisco’s history, started in 1868 by Italian community leader, businessman, and philanthropist Nicola Larco. Ten years after founding La Società Italiana di Mutua Beneficenza—San Francisco’s first Italian charity and mutual benefit society, and builders of the original Italian Hospital in San Francisco—Larco turned his attention and his benevolence toward ensuring that the Italian Colony’s heritage would be celebrated well into the future.
On the occasion of the Annual Family Fundraiser Dinner and Raffle, Friday, September 13, the new Court will be seen publicly for the first time, while the participants will enjoy a family-style dinner and fund-raising raffle.
Becoming the Queen Isabella or a member of her Court is not an easy endeavor. Selection of the Court is done at Fugazi Hall, 678 Green Street in San Francisco, where the girls are interviewed by three board members and are judged on how well they present themselves.
L'Italo-Americano asked Marilyn Bermani Baum, one of the three judges involved, what the main evaluation criteria are for this important selection.
“In choosing the court, we have three members of the board interview the girls,” said Marilyn Baum, who is Immediate Past President of Columbus Day Celebration, Inc. “We have set questions that are asked for new applicants, as well as returning members of the court. Decisions about who is selected are based on how well they respond to the questions, and how they present themselves at the time of the interview. Some of the ladies have been on the court for a few years, so you can see how they have grown with their participation.”
Together with her sister Esther Bermani Schaukowitch, they have been an integral part of the Columbus Day Parade for decades, besides being both on the Board of Directors.
“I have been Queen Mother for the last ten years,” said Esther Bermani Schaukowitch. “I have tried to follow the traditions of the previous Queen Mother Rae Mignola, and have added a few activities along the way for the Court to participate in.”
The Bermani sisters are the backbone of annual festivities. While each board member and volunteer does their part to bring the massive celebration together each year, Marilyn and Esther spend most of their inter-parade months meticulously hand sewing each stitch of the custom designed and tailored, elaborate and colorful costumes, which they create for each member of the court. The detail is exquisite, and the Bermani sisters’ artistry and dedication are self-evident.
Ending her reign as the 2012 Queen Isabella, Gianna Giambalvo Tesler will pass the royal crown and scepter to this year’s Queen Isabella, Angela Silva. Her royal court for 2013 will be comprised of Princess Tarren R. Petrocchi, 1st Duchess Angelina Ragusa, 2nd Duchess Brandi Christine Zuffo Allan, 3rd Duchess Jessica Carmela Carrabino, 4th Duchess Elyse Vincenzi, Contessa Sophia Olivolo Sauvageau, Contessa Clair Rose Vincenzi, Maiden Audrey Rose Lipari Smith, and Maiden Caroline Elizabeth Cirelli-Castaneda.
The outgoing court will serve until the crowning of the new queen at a special ceremony held the night before the parade, at the Columbus Day Grand Ball at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel.
Queen Isabella is the epitome of the ideal Italian-American young woman, selected for her poise, personality, grace, and pride in her heritage. She symbolizes the local community in her dreams, ambitions, and ideals. She will represent the Columbus Day Celebration and Italian Heritage Parade for the duration of the festivities at various functions and events.
Following a tradition started in 1915, when for the first time a ceremony was held to select a young man and woman to be crowned as the Spanish Monarch's Ferdinand and Isabella, the Queen is the primary focal point of the Columbus Day Celebration.
The role of Isabella grew in importance during the twenties, when the sponsorship of the parade shifted from St. Peter and Paul Church, to the Federation of Italian societies, an organization representing civic, social and fraternal Italian-American Organizations. In fact, the committee elected to abolish the role of "king" of the celebration and focus the ceremonies on a "queen."
Playing this role represents the ideals of the Italian heritage: hard work, the importance of family and religion, and a love of life. The women who have formerly held the title of Queen Isabella, as well as those who have served as members of their Courts, look back on their reigns as unforgettable, and as once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Simply portraying a member of the Court lends itself to feeling regal, and exemplifies the beginning of each woman’s future life of community involvement and leadership.
Photo Credit: Nickolas Marinelli