Sophomore connects to her culture and community by participating in parade
Psychology sophomore Caroline Knecht, far right, rides on the queen’s float in the Italian American Marching Club’s St. Joseph’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 15, 2014. The parade takes place once a year around March 19, the feast day of St. Joseph. DJ SEVERAN/Contributing Photographer
Some people connect to the roots of their heritage by cooking food or visiting the countries of their ancestors. Psychology sophomore Caroline Knecht gets to celebrate and represent her heritage by riding in a parade.
For more than a decade, Knecht has ridden in the St. Joseph's Day Parade hosted by the Italian American Marching Club.
The parade, always held around the feast day of St. Joseph, March 19, was held on Saturday, March 15, 2014.
In order to ride in the parade as a maid, one must be related to a member of the club and be of Italian descent.
"I got involved in the St. Joseph's Parade because my father has been an active member of the Italian American Marching Club organization for the past 19 years. One side of my father's family is of Italian descent, and the ancestors are from Sicily and Abruzzo," Knecht said.
A combination of experience and luck resulted in Knecht riding in the queen's court at this year's parade.
In order to ride in the queen's court, she had to have ridden in the parade for at least two years, and her name had to be drawn out of a hat at the first maid meeting of the year.
"I am honored to have been selected as a court maid this year representing the province of Toscano," Knecht said.
Robby Knecht, Caroline's father, walks alongside her float every year giving out fava beans, or "lucky beans," as well as flags and Italian-themed beads to parade watchers.
The lucky bean, meant to be carried in people's pockets all year, is a symbol of good luck. Legend has it that poor families in Italy got through years of famine by eating the fava eans that were bestowed upon them by praying to God and St. Joseph.
Robby Knecht said he is as honored to have his daughter ride in the parade as she is to represent her family.
"I am very proud of the young lady that my daughter has grown up to be. She is proud of her Italian heritage, has excelled in academics and athletics, is a committed student and coach and is a deeply-minded young woman exhibiting such passion and concern for her friendships, family, the Catholic Church and humanity," Robby Knecht said.
Caroline Knecht said she has found more than just a cultural connection in the parade - she has found a community.
"The queen is a good friend of mine who I grew up with. I have formed friendship over the years with the other maids, and it is like a reunion of sorts every March," Caroline Knecht said.
Brooke Cavet, Knecht's fellow maid, agreed, saying that what started out as a family obligation became an important part of her life.
"I was only five years old when I started riding, so it wasn't my decision at first, but after experiencing it, I didn't want to stop," Cavet said.
Caroline Knecht doesn't see her float-riding days ending anytime soon.
"The St. Joseph's Parade is an experience that I look forward to every year. The parade is a time of merriment. A good time is had by all," Caroline Knecht said.
Kylee McIntyre may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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