Italian Fest marks 120 years with this weekend’s edition

The St. Rocco – St. Anthony Society of Ishpeming will mark the 120th anniversary of its Italian Fest with a bang on Saturday.

The festival will begin at noon at Al Quaal Recreation Area with free admission. Along with the day’s activities, the Ishpeming Fourth of July Committee partnered up with St. Rocco – St. Anthony Society to put on a fireworks display, as the Independence Day show was canceled due to weather. 

“Sometimes (it feels) a little overwhelming but in other ways, you get a proud feeling you’re part of something bigger than you are. So many generations have gone and we keep it going. It feels good,” said president of the society and festival chairman Jim Bertucci.

The event is family-oriented with free pony rides, an obstacle course, ring toss, bingo, inflatable bouncy castle, kid’s games with prizes and a selection of arts and crafts vendors. There’s something for everyone and anyone, and you don’t have to be Italian to join in, Bertucci said.

Many people who go also enjoy the menu, Bertucci said. Homemade Italian food cooked by the Valela family will be sold at the society’s food booth, and other vendors will be present serving cudighis from Ralph’s Italian Deli, homemade Italian meatball sandwiches, panini made with meatballs served with garlic bread and salad. Live music will be offered from the Soundz of Time with locals Jan and Gino, the Ishpeming Blue Notes and Diamanti from Chicago will keep everyone satisfied, Bertucci said.

People who haven’t gone to the festival before should experience the importance of heritage and culture, and to keep the tradition going, Bertucci added. 

“It’s to keep reminding ourselves that immigrants back in the day had it tough and that’s why the society started,” Bertucci said. “It’s actually called a mutual-aid society so everybody pooled their money together and if anything happened to a member, the society would take care of that family. (It’s important) to keep the tradition going for friendship and fellowship.” 

For those who have attended the festival in the past, it is easy to see how such an event could have continued over 120 years. Everyone who attends, Italian or not, can find a way to have a great time. We encourage any and all who are free to consider attending this great, family-friendly event — even if you’re just looking for something tasty for dinner, you won’t be disappointed!

For a complete schedule of events, visit the festival’s website at www.ishpemingitalianfest.com/index.html.