Ocean County Press Release

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS is a national hero who helped open the new world and the state and national holiday that honors him need needs to be protected, said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.

Vicari announced the county's support for a state Senate resolution that would preserve Columbus Day as a holiday in the Garden State.

"Columbus Day honors not only an explorer, but it honors the millions of Italian-Americans who helped built this great nation," Vicari said.

New Jersey is home to an estimated 1.4 million people of Italian descent.

Ocean County alone boasts more than 140,000 Italian-American residents.

The Senate resolution, sponsored by Sen. Joe Pennacchio of Montville, calls on the state to continue to mark the second Monday in October as "a day to honor and celebrate the explorer's historic achievement."

Vicari agreed, saying efforts are already under way in other states to either eliminate or change the meaning of the holiday.

"Columbus was the first of many trailblazers that helped discover the New World," he said. "Our nation might not even exist if not for Christopher Columbus."

Ocean County's Columbus Day Parade has been a tradition for decades and attracts participants and spectators from as far away as Italy.

"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."

Not every state and county feels the same way.

A bill is pending in the Nebraska State House that would replace Columbus Day with a holiday honoring Native American leaders.

In California, the City of Los Angeles is also considering changes to its Columbus Day observance.

However, a national poll conducted last month found 55 percent of the respondents favored keeping Columbus Day as a national holiday.

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