The famiglia and I spent a sunny Saturday at the 38th Annual Italian Family Festa!
We’d been to the Festa before, but it was our first time at its new location. This year, the Italian American Heritage Foundation held the Festa at History Park in San José, California.
To celebrate their Italian heritage, the family signed up to volunteer: selling beverage tickets, handing out drinks, and drawing names for the Grape Stomp!
At the Opening Ceremony, the master of ceremonies welcomed all of us to the Festa! In a poignant moment during her remarks, she asked for a moment of silence to remember victims of sexual assault, as well as families affected by the recent California wildfires. Next, a priest from a San José Catholic Church gave a blessing and offered prayers for the victims of the August 14 Morandi Bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy.
After the American and Italian national anthems were sung, the Festa was officially on! Benvenuti a tutti!
Admission to the Festa was free. You only had to bring your appetite and some money for food! Vendors of Italian cuisine sold their ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, calamari fritti (fried calamari), gelato, cannoli, San Pellegrino sparkling water, meatball sandwiches, string cheese, and sfingi (fried ricotta doughnuts sprinkled with sugar), to name a few.
There was a Wine Tasting booth featuring vino from six local wineries. I prefer white wine, but I enjoyed a few sips of a lively red wine called LA VITA by Bargetto Winery in Soquel (near Santa Cruz). Unfortunately, they didn’t have any bottles for sale at the Festa. I guess we’ll have to take a trip to the winery soon!
There were many activities to keep the whole family entertained. Throughout the park, there were booths from local businesses with giveaways and spin-the-wheel games. There were at least a dozen vendors selling their original creations. Some were Italian-themed (silk-screened shirts with Italian words; Murano-glass handmade jewelry), but many were not Italian-themed (fuzzy puppets; toe rings; garden wind spinners). Proof that everyone was welcome!
For a friendly competition, there was a cheese building contest, where the youngest Festa guests could compete to see who could build the tallest tower using Galbani string cheese.
For the more athletic types, they had bocce, the popular Italian lawn bowling game. Although I’m not Italian (nor athletic!), I felt the warm and welcoming family atmosphere at the Festa, particularly at the bocce courts! They invited me to play then paired me up with another enthusiastic Festa guest. We played well together even though we had just met! There were two bocce courts: one standard-size and a smaller (and less competitive) one for the kids. They called it bambini bocce. Isn’t that thoughtful?
Another physical activity was the Grape Stomp. It’s so popular that they had to pick stompers and swabbies by lottery. Guessing from the participants’ pained facial expressions, it must be harder than it looks to stomp enough grapes to fill a mason jar with grape juice in less than five minutes! It was fun to watch and cheer them on, though!
There was music playing throughout the Festa to keep the Italian mood going, too. On the Roma Stage, there were alternating groups performing songs in both English and Italian.
One group performed a fun song, called “Tintarella di Luna,” which I recognized from a recent TV commercial for a Las Vegas hotel.
Behind the Cooking Stage, they played the Essential Dino playlist with Dean Martin hits, like “That’s Amore” and “Volare.”
My favorite Italian expression
In the movie, Cars 2, there’s a scene where Uncle Topolino shares this little nugget of wisdom with Lightning McQueen:
“Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro”
It’s my favorite Italian expression, which means “whoever finds a friend, finds a treasure.”
On that note, here we are with some of our dear amici at the Italian Family Festa:
For more information on the Festa, visit their website here.
To watch the singer perform the Italian national anthem at the Festa, watch my video here.
To hear the original version of “Tintarella di Luna” by Mina, check out a video clip here.
Ciao for now!