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Columbus Day Parade in Wheat Ridge? Maybe, Maybe Not…


By a 3-5 consensus vote (Stites, Sang and DeMott voting YES) five other members of Council decided not to hear from the Columbus Day Parade organizers at the June 27th City Council meeting.  The parade organizers are Wheat Ridge residents.  The comments below were read under Public Comment at the June 27th Council meeting by Rich SaBell, a Wheat Ridge resident.  It is very disappointing that a majority of City Council did not allow the parade committee to present their plan.


June 27, 2011

Comments for Wheat Ridge City Council

 My name is Rich SaBell and I am the President of the Columbus Day Parade Planning Committee.

 First, I would like to thank, and introduce my distinguished associates who have graciously donated their allotted 3 minutes of speaking time to me. My good friend and long time Wheat Ridge resident, John Gargano, is a member of Potenza Lodge, the Sons of Italy Lodge in Wheat Ridge, and is currently my First Vice President for the Columbus Day Parade Planning Committee.

 George Vendegnia, also my good friend and Wheat Ridge resident, is responsible for the restoration of the Columbus Day Parade in 2000 and is currently my Immediate Past President. George is a member of our local Sons of Italy Lodge in Wheat Ridge and is also an officer for the Sons of Italy Grand Lodge of Colorado. In addition, George is the Director and President of the Western division of the Commission for Social Justice, the anti-defamation arm for the Sons of Italy. The CSJ actively investigates and responds to things like negative stereotyping and discrimination against Italian Americans.

 I am a lifelong Wheat Ridge resident, actually born in Lutheran hospital, and can trace my ancestry to the Pioneers. I am a member of the Italian American Business Association and the Wheat Ridge Sons of Italy Lodge on 32nd and Harlan. I am also an officer for the Grand Lodge of Colorado which oversees all seven Sons of Italy Lodges within the state. The Order Sons of Italy in America, established in 1905, is a national organization and the largest Italian American organization in the country with over 700 Lodges. Our local lodge here in Wheat Ridge has almost 350 members, most of whom live in Wheat Ridge.

 This year, following the Columbus Day Parade, we will hold our post parade celebration and awards ceremony at our beautiful lodge on 32nd Harlan. We are deeply disappointed that this council did not see fit to put our suggestion, of moving the Columbus Day Parade from Downtown Denver to Wheat Ridge, on the agenda for tonight’s meeting. It seems shortsighted and close-minded to miss our presentation, with relevant materials, targeted for tonight’s agenda.

 Ever increasing support for the parade has encouraged us to think about expanding the event from our current one day festival format to a three day, entire weekend event. A Destination location to, not only bring people into Wheat Ridge, but also showcase the businesses and community of Wheat Ridge, similar to the Festival Italiano in Belmar. As the cornerstone celebration of Italian American Heritage month in October, the Columbus Day Parade will be on October 8th. A three day festival that same weekend, to kick off Italian American Heritage month, could be wonderful, and possibly lucrative. At this time there is no other festival in the month of October that I know of, so the opportunity is untouched. Sure the weather can be more unpredictable than usual in October, but long time residents know that you simply prepare for any weather. The Columbus Day Parade planning committee always takes this into consideration. If the weather is favorable we are thrilled, but if not, hey it’s Colorado. The parade last year was possibly the largest in the modern era.

 Colorado has a proud and unique place in history as the first state to celebrate Columbus Day in 1907. In 1909, Colorado was the first state to hold a Columbus Day parade in Pueblo. From then until now, the Celebration of Columbus Day across the nation has honored generations of Italian American families and their considerable contributions to this country. A holiday, a tradition, passed on to us with pride from our grandparents and great grandparents. To the Italian American community, the significance of celebrating Columbus Day can be compared to that of Saint Patrick’s Day to Irish Americans and Martin Luther King Day to African Americans. Anything less, any diminishing of Columbus Day, diminishes the Italian American community as a whole. Any sacrifice of our tradition, our dignity, and our pride as Italian Americans, is a slap in the face of our families.

 Some have mentioned the idea of a diversity day, instead of Columbus Day, to somehow placate a wider demographic. Rather than pay lip service to diversity why not actually practice it. The key to diversity is to preserve the diverse elements within the community, not diminish them. In addition to a Columbus Day Parade in Wheat Ridge, why not encourage things like a German festival, or a Scots, or Irish festival? Why not expand the festivities, not lump them all into one generic holiday. Changing the name of Columbus Day is as ridiculous as changing all the holidays to diversity days. December 25? Diversity day. Martin Luther King? Diversity day. Saint Patrick’s? Diversity day. Keep in mind that Columbus Day is a National American Holiday, anything less is unacceptable and a violation of our rights as American citizens.

 The Columbus Day Parade Planning Committee meets at 7pm, on the first Wednesday of every month at Vincenza’s, continuing eleven years of Wheat Ridge patronage for the committee, beginning with Valente’s and including Pietra’s Pizzeria . All of you are welcome to attend, as I hope that we will have the opportunity to continue this dialog in the future and seriously consider having a Columbus Day Parade and Festival, in Wheat Ridge, in 2012. Thank you for your time.