This year marks a special milestone in the history of Festitalia as we celebrate its 40th birthday. The current theme for Festitalia is, “Festitalia Embraces Hamilton”. I believe this theme is as real today as it was 40 years ago when the founders of Festitalia celebrated Italian culture and traditions with the Hamilton community.
It all started in the year 1975 when Roy Walker, the manager of the Eaton’s store had a vision to collaborate with the Italian community to promote Italian culture. Through hard work and commitment from people like Roy Walker, Frank Raso, Peter Cicchi, and Nick Zaffiro to name a few, an event promoting Italian culture was born: “The Italian Affair”. This event incorporated a 40 mile bicycle race, a fashion show, musicians that came directly from Italy and other events planned inside of Eaton’s and throughout the City of Hamilton.
Festitalia was born in 1976 following the great success of the Italian Affair, and its first chair was Mr. Frank Raso. Frank surrounded himself with leaders in the community, Italians and non-Italians who shared the same love for the culture. Among the earliest Board members were television and media personality, Emilio Mascia, Sam M. Cino and Frank Attardo along with former Mayor of Hamilton, Bob Morrow, Spectator Editor, Gord Bullock and Conductor, Boris Brott.
Festitalia grew as a major annual event in Hamilton during the entire month of September. In the last 40 years, Festitalia has shared with the Hamilton community, outstanding Opera performances, delicious regional dinners from several parts of Italy, fashion shows exhibiting the new Italian trends and Italian cinema.
As Festitalia celebrates 40 years of success, one thing you will find is that we as a board and a community are determined to keep Festitalia alive and move it forward for another 40 years. Festitalia continues to have much to share with the Hamilton community and continues to invigorate the passion of Canadians of Italian descent who believe that it is important to continue the rich traditions given to us by our parents and grandparents who had the courage to come to Canada for a better life for their children and grandchildren.
As we gather together throughout the month of September to embrace Hamilton in celebrating 40 unforgettable years, we cannot forget that it was also the Hamilton community that has embraced Festitalia as a festival of significance for all to enjoy.
Please join us as “Festitalia Embraces Hamilton” during our 40th Festival year.