Festa Italiana brings a bit of Rome to home

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 10, 2015

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STERLING HEIGHTS — For people who are unable to roam to Rome this month, Sterling Heights will once again be home to an Italian extravaganza.

Freedom Hill County Park will host the 2015 Festa Italiana from July 17-19.

Festival co-chair Joe Ventimiglia said the event has been around for more than three decades, and for much of that time was held at Freedom Hill. He said the event left the venue for a few years when Freedom Hill temporarily stopped having concert seasons, but the Italian festival has since returned and is now in its third year back.

Ventimiglia said Festa Italiana is a time for the local Italian community to come together as one. But he said a larger general crowd also attends, estimating annual turnout at somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people.

“It’s a great party and a great way for the Italians to get together,” he said. “There’s food and music and good drink, camaraderie.”

In the food category, the event promises pasta, pizza, Italian ice, desserts and more alongside Italian beers and wines.

Live music acts include Louis Prima’s daughter Lena Prima, tenor Aaron Caruso, Ray Massa’s Italian Band, The Simone Vitale Band, Dino Valle, Mark Randisi and Bellini Opera, according to organizers.

Festival contests include a raffle, a judged meatball contest, a six-minute cannoli eating contest and the Beautiful Baby Contest for children ages 9 months to 5 years.

Other activities include a family fun zone, bocce ball and a craft exhibit, organizers say. Mass will take place at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Ventimiglia said the heritage festival is presented by the Italian American Cultural Society, which he said is “kind of like the mothership for all the Italian clubs on the east side.” The event is also presented by Luna Hillside Productions.

The event’s other co-chair, Tom Bommarito, said some families reserve several picnic tables during the event so that their loved ones can enjoy the festival.

“It brings people together throughout the whole weekend,” he said. “You see families eating together, laughing, hugging. … You’ll see people running into people they haven’t seen in a long time.”

The 2015 Festa Italiana will take place July 17-19 at Freedom Hill County Park, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway in Sterling Heights. Hours will be 5-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is free. Parking costs $10, or $25 for a three-day pass, sold at the IACS offices, located at 43843 Romeo Plank Road in Clinton Township. Learn more by visiting www.iacsonline.com or by calling (586) 228-3030.

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