The most prominent commemorative figure of Christopher Columbus in the nation’s capital, the only U.S. jurisdiction named for Columbus, stands in a marble fountain setting in a plaza in front of one of the great landmark buildings in the city, Union Station opposite the U.S. Capitol. Dedicated in 1912 before a crowd of nearly 20,000 individuals including President Taft and cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, members of the U.S. Congress, thousands of Knights of Columbus, and others, it has been a focal point for annual celebrations to honor the great navigator and discoverer. Over the decades the celebrations were held by various organizations. In 1934 Congress authorized and requested the President to issue an annual Columbus Day proclamation, and in 1968 declared Columbus Day a public holiday, commencing in 1971.
After that time there was a gradual evolution of planning for the annual Columbus Day event, which involved the Knights of Columbus, Italian American organizations, U.S. military organizations, the diplomatic corps–especially Italy, Spain, and The Bahamas –and the National Park Service. In 1989 these efforts culminated in the organization of The Washington Columbus Celebration Association, which has been responsible since then for the yearly Columbus Day event. Renamed the National Columbus Celebration Association in 1999, the Association is governed by a board of directors elected by its general membership, with officers chosen annually by the board.