Monday, August 18, 2008

Festa Italia

First of all, I may have been one of the only non-Italians at the annual Festa Italia in our town. I know for sure there was one other present, a young man working in a food concession stand. I know he was Irish because he had on a green t-shirt which had shamrocks on the back and the words "Token Cake Eater". I'd like one of those shirts!

This was my first visit to this festival which is held in the park for one day, always a Sunday. The day begins with an outdoor Mass celebrated by a retired Italian Bishop in our Diocese. I loved it that the music used for this special Mass was Contemporary Christian, including my favorite song, "Above All". It amazes me how Communion can be so easily distributed in such an atypical environment with such a huge congregation.

After Mass, I went to the grocery store and then came home to change into something casual and cooler and then went back to the park. Parking is at a premium, but I was lucky and didn't have to walk very far. I met my friend Mary Ann and her fiance and we settled in to watch the entertainment. Periodically, I went to get water or food, and ran into people I know. It was great! I absolutely love small town community celebrations -- you get to see people you normally don't see and it's a wonderful catch-up time. Not to mention all the good food, from bagna cauda to calimari to pizza. Yummy!

Julius LaRosa was the headliner, and though I recall when he was first featured on The Arthur Godfrey Show, I was either too young for an 'idol' or I was already enthralled with Elvis. I was quite surprised at how short LaRosa is -- he looked taller on tv -- but the man can still sing! There was a group of dancers attired in traditional Italian dress who danced to all the favorite Italian dances, including the Basket Dance. (I will have to research that one to know what it symbolized). There were also some very talented Italian singers who performed. Getting chuckles from the audience was a quartet of 4-5 year olds who performed on the dance floor. One little girl in particular was a delight. She had on jeans, a pink top, and a matching pink cowboy hat. I decided she must be either a natural talent or she is taking dance lessons. She kept bowing in a very dramatic fashion and tossing her hat as she did so.

The highlight was the last group, Dr. Zoot, a swing band from Pittsburgh. They were FABULOUS! If you ever get a chance to see this extremely talented and professional band, go! I can't say enough about how good they are. What was particularly interesting and uplifting was seeing all the teens run up to the dance floor to dance and interact with the band. It gives me hope that young people appreciate true musical talent in an age when most seem enthralled with the lowest form of musical entertainment, rap. It would be wonderful to see the swing and big band sound become very popular again, and this comes from a diehard rocker. Seeing performers who are truly talented and educated in their art form is a blessing.

The day ended for me just after dark when I headed for home, sunburned and very pleasantly tired. I just wish my children and grandchildren could attend these events with me.

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