Ocean County Freeholders Want to Keep Columbus Day Alive in New Jersey

Jan 25, 2017

In the face of controversy during recent years of what many people consider to be major atrocities against Native Americans surrounding Columbus Day, a state and national holiday that reveres Christopher Columbus as a national hero who discovered America, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders has declared its support for a state Senate resolution that would safeguard Columbus Day as a holiday in the Garden State. The pledge, sponsored by Sen. Joe Pennacchio of Montville, asks the state to make sure the second Monday in October remains “a day to honor and celebrate the explorer’s historic achievement.”

“Columbus Day honors not only an explorer, but it honors the millions of Italian-Americans who helped build this great nation,” said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “Columbus was the first of many trailblazers that helped discover the New World. Our nation might not even exist if not for Christopher Columbus.”

New Jersey is home to an estimated 1.4 million people of Italian descent, according to the board of freeholders. More than 140,000 Italian-American residents live in Ocean County alone. The county’s Columbus Day Parade, which draws people from as far as Italy, has been a custom for decades.

But efforts to either abolish or alter the significance of the holiday are currently being carried out in other states, Vicari noted. A bill is pending in the Nebraska State House that would replace Columbus Day with a holiday honoring Native American leaders. Los Angeles is also deliberating amendments to its Columbus Day observance.

“Italian-Americans look at Columbus Day as a celebration not just of the man, but of Italian culture and heritage here in the Americas,” Vicari said. “It’s a proud heritage and one this board of freeholders will do everything it can to protect and preserve.”

Despite the many efforts to upend the holiday in many states, the freeholders noted that a national poll taken last month found 55 percent of the respondents preferred to keep Columbus Day as a national holiday. —K.A.E.

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