Michael J. Daly The Iceman cometh: To Shelton
It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and Jay Piccirillo, aka The Iceman, is moving buckets of product — his renowned Micalizzi’s Italian ice — from his van to his booth at Fairfield’s Assumption Church’s annual Septemberfest.
The Miccalizzi’s booth is next to the Luigi’s pastries booth. “Hey,” he says, “Miccalizzi’s and Luigi’s, right, they go together.”
Indeed they do, as two of the area’s best-known purveyors of classic Italian delicacies.
The Iceman is a force of nature, both in spirit and in physical presence.
Depending on the last time he ate, The Iceman, a Hall of Fame powerlifter, goes about 335 pounds on a 6-foot frame constructed with a 60-inch chest, 34-inch thighs and 23-inch biceps. A cathedral door comes to mind.
It’s a good thing that he’s an affable man, 47 years old, and congenitally predisposed to optimism.
He has been involved, in one fashion or another, with dozens of charitable causes in and around the city.
Though it was not for charity, in one of his more colorful ventures it was he who in 2016 dispatched the 500-pound, New Jersey wrestler Colossus in a “No Holds Barred” wrestling match at the Cardinal Shehan Center in front of some 700 people that ran the gamut from Hells Angels and their wives, girlfriends and kids to a 74-year-old nun, Mayor Joe Ganim and other slices of local society.
But on this day, while still his ebullient self, he’s a little down. He hunches on a table — a very sturdy table — in the shadow of the Ferris wheel and shriek-inducing Rock Star ride. Volunteers scurry about.
Just as his business and Luigi’s are parts of the Italian-American fabric, so, too, is the annual Columbus Day parade. But odds seem slim that the parade is going to happen — at least in Bridgeport — this year.
Barring a last-minute concession from the city of Bridgeport on demanding what could be some $17,000 for the cost of police overtime for last year’s and this year’s parades, the event will move to Shelton, where Mayor Mark Lauretti, a Bridgeport guy through and through, will welcome it with open arms on Oct. 7, Shelton Day.
Since streets will already be closed, it’s not a problem. They will welcome the parade.
Chris Caruso, a former Democratic state legislator and city council member, has been involved since 1986 in helping with the Council of Italian-American Societies of Greater Bridgeport, which runs the parade.
He told me last week there was the slimmest of chances things could yet be worked out with the city of Bridgeport.
“It’s affordability and principle,” Caruso told me last week. On the affordability side, he noted the parade has expenses. For example, a snazzy marching unit like The Mummers, from Philadelphia, costs around $4,000.
“And we can’t charge people to watch a parade,” he said. And, he noted, like the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Puerto Rican parade and the Barnum Festival Great Street parade — P.T. Barnum must have been spinning in his grave when even that event was forced off city streets and into Seaside Park by soaring costs that included police overtime — the Columbus Day parade is an economic stimulant for the city.
The first Columbus Day parade stepped off in Bridgeport in 1908, one year before the Connecticut General Assembly declared Columbus Day an official state holiday.
To say it is a Bridgeport tradition is vast understatement.
The parade traditionally ended near Micalizzi’s Italian Ice store at 712 Madison Ave., and Piccirillo and other Madison Avenue businesses wouldn’t deny it was a good day at the cash registers.
But there’s more than that. The Iceman, I’m sure, speaks for others when he says, “I’m not mad. I’m disappointed. The nostalgia, the legacy of my family, the whole history of the thing ...” His words trail off and he shakes his head.
Multiple other events associated with the parade will take place, including the John A. Arcudi, Esq. Columbus Leadership awards ceremony on Oct. 2 at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, 1070 Main St. Nine local Italian-Americans, including Piccirillo’s mother, Lucille, will be honored for their contributions to the community.
“So, Piccirillo pauses and slips back into optimism. “The Columbus Day parade on HOWE AVENUE!! he booms.
’”Shelton, BATTEN THE HATCHES. WE’RE COMIN’!!!”
Michael J. Daly is editor of the editorial page of the Connecticut Post. Email: email@example.com.