SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Township of Scotch Plains hosted its annual Columbus Day celebration on Saturday morning on the Alan Augustine Village Green.

The program featured comments by officials from UNICO, the Knights of Columbus, Mayor Al Smith, and former Governor Donald DiFrancesco, who explained that he was born in his parents' home in Scotch Plains on Mountain Ave. The event attracted community leaders, government officials and two student essay contest winners from St. Bartholomew Academy. 

Many of the speakers noted that there have been changes in the way Columbus is viewed in recent years, but these perceptions have not changed the explorer's place of honor among Italian Americans.

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Renato Biribin, a longtime UNICO member, expressed his disappointment that political correctness has hurt Columbus's heralded status in the Italian-American community.

"He brought tomatoes to Italy. Could you imagine Sunday pasta without tomatoes," Biribin asked, only semi-jokingly.

The annual celebration was hosted by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Chapter of UNICO, the Italian-American service organization and The Italian-American Club. is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.