Benvenuto alla festa

Italian Fest to kick off Saturday with smorgasbord of tastes, sights and sounds

A crowd is seen at Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming during the 118th annual Italian Festival in 2017. This year’s event is set for Saturday. (Journal file photo)

ISHPEMING — Whether it’s said in Italian — “Benvenuto alla festa” — or in English — “welcome to the festival” — it’s a phrase that those who love all things Italian wait the whole year to hear.

And that wait is almost over.

Members of the St. Rocco-St. Anthony Society of Ishpeming are making the final preparations for the 119th annual Italian Festival at the Al Quaal Recreation area on Saturday.

“It’s a time in which all Italian-Americans get to show off and be proud of their heritage and give back to the community,” event spokesman Anthony Bertucci said. “That has been our focus the last few years. We are inviting the community to be part of it, this isn’t just a time for Italian-Americans.”

Visitors, who attend the festival in droves, can once again enjoy homemade Italian food cooked by the Valela family, which is to be sold at the society’s food booth. In addition, various vendors will be serving cudighis, Italian sandwiches, hot dogs, snow cones, ice cream novelties and much more.

Parents look on as their children play on bounce houses and slides. (Journal file photo)

The day-long picnic is scheduled to begin at noon and is billed as “food and fun for the entire family.” There is no admission fee and many of the children’s activities are offered free of charge.

Other highlights of Italian Fest include activities such as bingo, a greased pole — with a $100 prize — free pony rides, a large glide slide, kids obstacle course, children’s games, games of chance, and several arts and crafts vendors.

The festival will also have musical entertainment including Soundz of Time with Jan and Gino from 2 to 4 p.m. The Ishpeming Blue Notes will play at 4:30 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. the Diamanti band from Chicago will perform classic contemporary Italian and American music.

Al Quaal has been home to festival-goers for the last 21 years, members of the society — which originated as the Italian Beneficial Society, or “Societa di Beneficenza Italiana” in 1899, commemorated their commitment to the location and the community in 2017 by donating a permanent pavilion to be used for food service on the site.

The full name of the society is the Italian American Mutual Aid Society of St. Rocco and St. Anthony of Padua, according to the organization’s website.

“This name reflects the organization’s original purpose — to be an aid society for Italian Americans,” the site states. “The Society is currently comprised of over 100 Catholic men of Italian descent. Although the annual Italian Fest is one of our organization’s largest and most visible events, we also provide various works of charity to our community.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.


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