Italy to descend upon community

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 25, 2005

Upcoming international festival will be the first of its kind in the city

By Allison T. Williams

Gli Italiani vengono!

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That’s right, the Italian’s are coming!

Oderzo, Italy, hometown of Planters Peanut founder Amedeo Obici and Suffolk-Obici’s adopted hometown- will unite next month to celebrate one another’s rich heritage.

On Aug. 13, more than 90 Italians from Oderzo, which is Suffolk’s sister city, will descend upon the city, sharing their talent and culture with locals at the first Festa Italiana. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Constant’s Wharf.

The Italian group, in town at the invite of the Suffolk Sister City Commission, includes two opera singers, traditional alpine musicians, a chef and internationally renowned fruit sculptor.

The all-day festival will give locals a true taste of Italian culture, said Mary Jane Naismith, chair of the Sister City Commission.

Tall Roman columns and red, green and white Italian flags will grace Constant’s Wharf, where strolling musicians will perform traditional Italian music throughout the day.

&uot;This is authentic Italian,&uot; said Naismith. &uot;It’s already drawing a lot of interest from the local Italian community.&uot;

Highlights of the event will include:

nAn authentic Italian dinner, which is being held at the Suffolk Conference Center from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Chef Carlo will be taking over the hotel’s kitchen to prepare the dinner.

&uot;The chef decided on the menu for Saturday,&uot; said Naismith. &uot;He doesn’t speak English but he has sent over a grocery list.&uot;

Although the dinner is open to the public, it is limited to 400 people, she said. Tickets are $50 each and being sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Call 923-2086 for tickets.

nWine enthusiasts will have the opportunity to savor a taste of Italy by sampling Italian wine from the vineyards of northern Italy from 3 to 6 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $15; tickets are $20 on the day of the event. Tickets can be purchased at the Suffolk Visitor Center, 321 N. Main St.

There will also be performances throughout the day by Cora Ana, a group of Alpine musicians, and two Italian opera singers, Naismith said.

Italian cooking will also take the stage several times throughout the day.

Maria Forner, a pastry chef, will demonstrate how to make the dessert, Tiramisu, and Beppo Tono will give a fruit-sculpting exhibit.

Car enthusiasts can check out an Italian car exhibit while art lovers can look at paintings and ceramics from Tuscany. There will also be a display of shoes by GEOX, an Italian shoe company.

Several Italian food vendors will be on hand with their specialties, Naismith said. Ivan Gherardini, a Virginia Beach businessman who is a native of Italy, will making a special Italian treat in honor of the Suffolk event: peanut gelato.

There will be all sort of children’s events: games, pasta art, face painting, Venetian masks, Italian hats, and story telling.

Other events are still being planned, Naismith added.

To cap off the evening, the musical group, &uot;Butter,&uot; will perform a Las Vegas-style revue. The day will end with a fireworks display.

Festa Italiana is drawing a lot of attention-and not just from Suffolk.

In planning the event, Naismith contacted several local lodges of the Order Sons of Italy in America, a fraternal organization those of Italian heritage. As members of local lodges shared news of the festival within the organization, the phones began to ring in city hall.

&uot;It’s generating a lot of interest from the Italian American community,&uot; Naismith said.

&uot;The city has gotten calls from people as far away as Texas and Pennsylvania who are planning to come.&uot;

Naismith has also gotten calls from Italian Americans eager to participate in the festival. For example, an 80-year-old marching band musician – who spent 30 years performing in Italy – has called and asked to participate in the band’s opening march.

Naismith is hoping to make the Italian festival an annual event.

&uot;We have a one-time shot to make this a great event. It is going to be wonderful.&uot;