Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Tradition's mixed emotions
Councilman, Boy Scouts oppose Columbus Day re-enactment
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 10/10/06
BY NANCY SHIELDS
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU
ASBURY PARK — One councilman objected, the American Indians dropped out and Christopher Columbus' boat never made it into the ocean to land on the beach near Convention Hall.
Many of the 100 people who gathered on a sunny boardwalk for Asbury Park's 53rd annual Columbus Day beach landing seemed aware of the latest criticism about Columbus' treatment of American Indians but were unable to give up a long tradition of celebrating being American.
"What we're celebrating today is America and all of its people," said City Councilman John Loffredo, who portrayed Columbus and spoke after his boat was pulled along the beach by an all-terrain vehicle.
"We're called the melting pot for a good reason. Look around you," Loffredo said. "This is the largest crowd we've had (in recent times)."
Loffredo said the beach landing didn't take place this year for himself and his two mates, city Beach Safety Supervisor Joe Bongiovanni and lifeguard Mike Fidek, because "we couldn't get out in the waves."
City officials said they learned Thursday that the Boy Scouts — members of the Na-Tsi-Hi Lodge 71 from the Oakhurst section of Ocean Township — would not dress up as American Indians, greet Columbus and perform tribal dances, as troop members have done in past years.
City Manager Terence Reidy said the Boy Scouts' withdrawal was related to concerns about the Columbus Day re-enactment but was not a reaction to criticism made by City Councilman Jim Keady at last week's City Council meeting.
Keady objected to the city sponsoring a re-enactment that traditionally has shown Columbus and American Indians happy and peaceful when Columbus both enslaved and caused the death of American Indians.
"I do not support using taxpayers' dollars to tell a sanitized version of this history," Keady said last week.
On the boardwalk Monday, Deputy Mayor James Bruno said the purpose was to celebrate America and that the annual re-enactment will continue as "long as I'm here, as long as John (Loffredo) is here."
"Columbus Day to me in Asbury Park is about our voyage," said Reidy, who spoke after Bruno. "We can see the shore, but there's still some rough currents ahead of us.
"You're making this city grow," he said to the crowd. "You're making this city work, and that's what this is all about."
About 10 children, dressed as American Indians, were on hand to greet Columbus after the Boy Scouts dropped out. Several of the young people were the children of Thomas DeSeno, a lawyer in the city.
Loffredo took over the role of Columbus in 2003, after former beach supervisor Joe Pallotto stepped down. Pallotto had carried out the re-enactment for four decades.
This ain't no party: a Columbus Day rant
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