Well it’s that time of year again. Guelph’s summertime celebration of Italian culture, food and music for all ages begins this Friday July 11 at the Italian Canadian Club of Guelph.
The annual ‘Festa on Ferguson’ is always a wonderful weekend where the Italian Canadian Club, its members and friends throw open club doors and welcome everyone to enjoy three days of Italian culture, friendship and hospitality.
Festival Italiano is not only a celebration of Italian culture. It’s also a celebration of our heart, volunteerism and commitment to civic pride. It’s a celebration of the talents of our families, friends and neighbours – Italian and non-Italian alike.
When the first Italians arrived in Guelph over 100 years ago, they came to the Ward. They started families and lived, worked and prayed in St. Patrick’s Ward. The Italians quickly became proud and active members of the community.
They successfully integrated within the social fabric of Guelph as craftsmen, artists, musicians, business owners, manufacturers, professionals and leaders. The Italian Canadian Club of Guelph was founded in the Ward and remains there to this day where it serves as a legacy to these Italians’ hard work and selfless commitment to their community.
The 21st edition of Festival Italiano continues the tradition of Italians celebrating and sharing their culture with their adopted City of Guelph in the heart of the Ward. Festival Italiano is the evolution of the multitude of family celebrations, Italian picnics, San Giorgio celebrations on Alice Street and cultural festivals of days gone by.
This year’s event features festival favourites such as the grease pole climb, a team competition of skill, cunning and strength; the cheese roll, up and down the length of Ferguson Street; the children’s bocce tournament; and the late-night Spaghetti Eating Contest.
Among festival highlights will be The Mark Lalama Trio. It’s led by first-generation Italian-Canadian, Canadian Idol musical director, band leader and pianist Mark Lalama. He will showcase his unique blend of traditional, world and contemporary sounds. A Festival first will be the appearance of Guelph native Joseph Macerollo, appointed to the Order of Canada in 2013 for his promotion of the accordion as a classical orchestra instrument. In addition, another Guelph native, multi-instrumentalist Joe Lucchetta, will present classic Italian music. Returning to Festival Italiano is Guelph resident and renowned jazz bassist Jason Raso, with his quartet. The Folk, led by sisters Emma and Sara Bortolon-Vettor, round out this year’s headliners with their unique alternative offerings.
New for 2014 is an Italian Literary Symposium, moderated by Wellington-Waterloo Italian Vice Consul Gabriel Niccoli, featuring guest speakers from across the province.
In addition, festival patrons are welcome to try their hand at the game of bocce on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the club’s indoor bocce facility.
The festival also continues to have offerings for the entire family – from games and a midway for the children, to indoor and outdoor entertainment and Italian food to be enjoyed by all. And admission is free!
So whether you can join us for an hour, an afternoon or all three days, we look forward to sharing this wonderful weekend with you, our neighbours, our friends, extended family and fellow citizens of this one great city, Guelph.
Remember, life’s too short not to be Italian!
Stephen Gazzola is the President of the Italian Canadian Club of Guelph, a local architect and third generation Canadian of Italian decent.