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Does Syracuse's Columbus Day Celebration Need to Appeal to a Wider Population?

Those who organize Syracuse’s annual wreath laying at Columbus Circle say it might be time to celebrate all immigrants on Columbus day, not just Italians.  Syracuse’s north side Italian American community raised the money to build the monument to Christopher Columbus in 1932, and an annual ceremony continued Monday for a 37th year.  But president of the Columbus Monument Association Michael Vavonese says maybe the holiday should embrace all groups…
Maybe one sign that the holiday and it's significance need re-thinking is the relatively low turnout at the ceremony.  Elected officials and media almost equaled the roughly 20 spectators who attended.  But Vavonese says when the monument was erected  82 years ago, the struggles of Italian immigrants were still fresh.

Vavonese and Domenick Brancato of Liverpool say younger generations don't connect with their heritage or identify with the struggles of their ancestors.

Domenick Brancatocame to America from Sicily as a young boy in the late 1960’s.  He’s run restaurants and pizza shops in the community for 30 years.  

Brancato says identifying with one's heritage grows over time.

Members of the Josephine Federico youth chorus sang an Italian hymn as officials placed a wreath at the base of the monument on Columbus Circle.  


Meanwhile, on the Syracuse University campus Monday, a native American student group declared the day Indigenous Survival Day.  Organizers of this and similar events say the idea is to remind the community that Native Americans are still here, after surviving the slaughter that many scholars say Columbus brought upon native peoples during his voyages.  

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at