Festa Italiana Celebrates Tradition

Rockford’s Festa Italiana returns this year from Aug. 2-4 at Boylan High School Grounds, 4000 St. Francis Dr. For the 45th time, the event promises an exciting weekend filled with homemade Italian cuisine, cultural displays and fun activities for the whole family.

Coined as “one big family reunion,” the festival is teeming with traditions.

“Whitey Marinelli and Bob Corirossi started Festa Italiana to bring the Italian community together,” says Joy Parlapiano, festival organizer. She’s spent more than two decades to help Festa come alive every summer. “It’s always the first week of August and people look forward to it. You see people you know and people you haven’t seen for years come to Festa for the bocce, for the food – it’s a tradition.”

This year’s Festa Italiana preserves its traditions and introduces several new and exciting elements. Grilled chicken sandwiches, offered with pesto or other sauce, and pizza complement the array of homemade Italian dishes festivalgoers have come to expect.

Families can look forward to a several familiar activities, including traditional Italian bocce tournaments and carnival rides for all ages.

The culture tent, which celebrates the theme of Rome this year, offers a unique glimpse into Italian heritage with genealogy tests, exhibits and a special blessing from the pope. The tent will be dedicated to “everything Rome,” says Parlapiano.

Entertainment at Festa Italiana is always a highlight. This year’s lineup includes performances from AudioDrive on Friday, the Blooze Brothers and Dead Man’s Hand on Saturday, and Stevie Swing & The Summer Wind, an Italian quartet, on Sunday.

“The Amici Italiani Dance Troupes also perform on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” says Parlapiano. “We also have carnival rides and games, so there’s something for everybody.”

Festa Italiana works to support the community through education each year as a major fundraiser for the Greater Rockford Italian American Association (GRIAA) scholarship fund. The fund provides financial support to Italian American students in kindergarten through 12th grade attending parochial schools.

“We give out quite a bit of money for that,” says Parlapiano. “All the proceeds from Festa go towards those scholarships.”

Admission to the festival is $8 per ticket, with free entry for children under 7 and military personnel, including veterans. For families, a pack is available for $90 with four admissions, two ride wristbands and $20 worth of food tickets. Special wristbands for rides are also available for $30 on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

Parlapiano attributes Festa Italiana’s continued success to the dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to bring it to life each year. For her, it’s something to be proud of.

“Everyone is a volunteer – from the executive board to all the tents – and they’re the same people that have been running it for years,” says Parlapiano. “Festa is one thing I have in my life that I’m very proud of, and I work very hard at it.”

For a complete schedule of events and more information, visit festaitalianarockford.com.