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Making A Name - And A Holiday - for Yourself

October 11, 1992

Undated (AP) _ Looking for a big Columbus Day blowout? Don’t try Columbus, Miss. Or Columbus, Neb. Or Columbus, Mont.

The party’s already over in those parts, although the 500th anniversary of their namesake’s discovery of America is officially marked Monday. Which is part of the problem - more than likely, two of ’em weren’t even named for the roving Italian.

Take Columbus, Mont., population 1,573, with no ties to the Nina, the Pinta or the Santa Maria.

″Early on, this was a settlement called Eagle’s Nest. Then later, it became Sheep Dip,″ said Ron Barndt of Columbus, Mont. ″The railroad changed it to Stillwater, but there was confusion with a town in Minnesota.″

Voila 3/8 The solution: Eagle’s Nest-turned-Sheep Dip-turned-Stillwater became Columbus, which now can be confused with towns in dozens of states.

Like Columbus, Miss. The good news here: At least this town WAS named after Christopher C. And they did have a major party this weekend - in honor of Jackie Sherrill and his No. 18 Mississippi State football team. Discovery of the New World was shifted to the previous weekend to keep things clear for pigskin.

How important was Mississippi State’s showdown with Auburn? The town even rescheduled an appearance by Up With People 3/8 Queen Isabella must be rolling over in her grave.

″College football games take precedence down here, even over the 500th anniversary of Columbus,″ said Carolyn Denton of the local visitors’ bureau.

Bonus fact about Columbus, Miss.: There’s no Columbus statue, although there’s a replica of the Statue of Liberty downtown.

Mississippi was a week early; in Nebraska, they celebrated the big day - as they do every year - in August. More bad news: This burg is a company town named after Columbus, Ohio.

″We had consistently bad weather. Lousy,″ Mayor Larry Merrick said of the decision to switch from Oct. 12. ″So we moved in 1980. The weather’s better on the third weekend of August.″ No word on how Christmas in July went, although the weather was spectacular.

Which is not to say that Columbus Day is not a big event in certain Columbuses - like the one in Ohio, where it’s more revered than the anniversary of Woody Hayes’ discovery of two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

The majority of the nation’s 41 Columbus-centric towns are planning some sort of quincentennial festivities, from a first-ever party in the original Columbus in New York state (established 1805) to an international fiesta in Columbus, N.M.

As the biggest city named after Columbus, the pressure was on Ohio this year. And the Buckeye capital responded with a year-long series of events, including the massive AmeriFlora horticultural exposition, introduced by George Bush and Bob Hope.

This past weekend? The crowning of Miss Columbus, a competition among 13 beauty queens from communities named Columbus. The Ohio Chili Cookoff. Fireworks. A Motown review. The Columbus Marathon. In short, all the amenities Columbus was looking for in a New World.

Little-known Columbus, Ohio, fact: It is the only Columbus in America with a toll-free tourist information number. In contrast, the only public listing in Columbus, N.D., is for the fire department.

Guest of honor at the bash in Columbus, N.Y., was Rick Vanderpool, who may know more about America’s Columbi than anyone anywhere. He traveled 30,000 miles over two years in anticipation of the quincentennial, taking pictures of each and every Columbus in the country.

He also visited 24 now-defunct Columbus sites and five places that used to be called Columbus. In addition to his weekend appearance, Vanderpool, 43, of Athens, Ga., is also the honorary mayor of Columbus, Mo., population 24.

″These places were very representative of every single town in this country,″ said an excited Vanderpool. ″I could replace any Columbus town with any town with any other name.″

A town by any other name, however, would not be Columbus.

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