Parade leader is longtime executive director of Neighborhood House

The grand marshal of last year’s Multnomah Days parade was Timber Joey, the Portland Timbers’ mascot. This year’s processional will be led by someone far less recognizable at first glance, but whose impact in Multnomah Village and throughout the city has been immeasurable — Rick Nitti.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rick Nitti.Since May 1999, Nitti has served as executive director of Neighborhood House, a nonprofit based in Multnomah Village that works to provide social services to low-income residents of the greater Portland area. He said lives in a part of the Hillsdale neighborhood whose "persona is more Multnomah."

It will not be the first time that Nitti treads the Multnomah Days parade route.

“Neighborhood House and myself personally have been involved in it for years, just walking in the parade,” Nitti said. Last year, he even participated in a flash mob. “To participate and give back to the business community in doing something that was fun.”

When Multnomah Days organizer Joan Steinbach approached Nitti about serving as grand marshal, the decision, he said, was a no-brainer.

“I love Multnomah Days. I love the Multnomah Days parade; I love the way the community comes together around it and links up with the neighborhood,” he said. “And … I greatly appreciate how the planning committee has sort of adopted Neighborhood House as its charity and has been, for the last year, doing various things to help us. … It’s a great partnership, and saying yes was a way to show my appreciation.”

The feeling is mutual.

“What we like to do is choose people who have made an impact in our community or have any qualities we think are important,” Steinbach said, “and Rick Nitti is … just a wonderful person.”

Other than doing the wave — something he said he has "no clue" about — Ritti said the grand marshal position is largely honorary. Still, he is profoundly thankful for the opportunity.

“I think the Multnomah Days parade and festival, it’s just the best of America. It’s just that sort of coming together of community that I think is the best,” he said. “And it’s corny in its own way and quirky and typical ‘Portland weird.'

“To me, it’s just what this country should be about: coming together in community,” he said. “Putting it in political perspective, I think what we found in the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case was the opposite. That was about pulling the country apart, whether you were for Zimmerman or Martin, but the reason that thing happened is because too many people in America perceive other people as being different, and not being part of who I am, and Multnomah Days, it’s all about all of us together in community and enjoying each other, and that’s why I love it.”

With his community-minded spirit and tireless contribution to his neighbors, Steinbach said Nitti is truly deserving of the title of grand marshal.

“He will be in front of the parade,” she said. “And after, he will hopefully bask in the attention that he so deserves and never asks for.”

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