Spotlight on: Italian Culture in Florida & The Italian Family Festa

Submitted by Elizabeth Ricci

This is the “Year of Italian Culture in the U.S.” according to the Italian embassy in Washington, DC. 2013 “commences a journey that will communicate and promote Italy, engage and enthuse Americans, strengthen the bonds that unite us and create new ones.” New bonds are being formed and old bonds strengthened every day here in the Sunshine State. According to the National Italian American Foundation, Florida is home to approximately eighteen Italian Festivals and just over one million people of Italian heritage.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Two Italian-American women in Tallahassee, Shelley Duke and Elizabeth Ricci, recognized the need to celebrate their shared culture and founded the Tallahassee Italian Family Festa in 2010. The event was so popular that it was named “Best Inaugural Festival” by the National Association of Italian Festivals and one of the “Top Ten Festivals” to attend by the Miami Herald. Having run out of specialty Italian food the first year and out of space the second year, the third annual Italian Family Festa will celebrate all things Italian on new grounds and with an abundance of pastries and specialty foods as well as offering cultural activities and “famiglia” fun. An Italian consulate attaché will be on hand with words from the Italian Consul General in Miami.

The entertainment celebrates ancient Italian art forms including the Cirque Italiano, opera, stomping grapes and tossing tomatoes, to name a few. Artists from across the panhandle will create 3D sidewalk chalk masterpieces in the ancient Madonnari tradition which dates back to the 1500s and is named for the “Madonna” when itinerant artists painted streets near the cathedrals where they worked. The event will also feature Italian beer, wine and limoncello, bocce, a gondola, and exotic cars, and cooking demonstrations. The Italian Family Festa is not just celebrating yesteryear, however, as this year the Festa debuts the Italian Idol competition to encourage both young and old to compete in song. With separate competitions for kids and adults, two lucky winners will be crowned for their musical talents in this competition judged by local celebrities.

In addition to being the Year of Italian Culture, in 2013 Florida is celebrating Viva Florida 500 and commemorating the 500 years of history since Juan Ponce de Leon landed on Florida’s coast in 1513. Since that time, many cultures have come together in our diverse and vibrant state, and the Italian Family Festa is just one of the many cultural festivals that occur each year throughout the state.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

Photo by Mike Copeland. Submitted and used by permission of Elizabeth Ricci.

The Italian Family Festa will take place on April 13 and 14 at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. To learn more, visit http://www.italianfesta.org.

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