While Italy might be more than 4,500 miles away, students and local residents will have the chance to get close to the real thing here in Columbus this weekend.
The annual Columbus Italian Festival is set to take place from Friday to Sunday and will be a weekend full of authentic culture and more, all dedicated to sharing knowledge and awareness of the Italian culture.
“The cultural booth is very exciting this year, every half hour we have a different demonstration with the Italian heritage,” said Landa Brunetto, the director of festival publicity.
The first festival, started by Father Casto Marrapese, took place in September 1980, and was built on the idea of faith, family and friends — three elements that were said to have represented the Italian people and their culture, according to the festival’s website.
Kaitlyn Rabe, the vice president of the Italian Club at the Ohio State University and a third-year in Western European studies and Italian, said it’s very interesting to see the way Italian Americans celebrate their heritage.
“Italian Americans take so much pride in their heritage,” she said.
Rabe gave a very important reason to attend the event: the food.
“That’s always gonna be my first thing about Italy, always the food and how insanely good it is,” Rabe said.
Attendees can expect a great variety of Italian food provided by local vendors and restaurants, like Carfagna’s Kitchen, The Berwick Manor Party House and Cafe Napolitana Pizzeria and Bar, along with food made by the local church, St. John the Baptist. The church, which has been the epicenter of the festival since its start, is considered the main attraction, Brunetto said.
“As with every Italian festival going back 500 years, 2,000 years, the church was always the reason for the festival,” she said.
After success in its first year, half of the proceeds from the festival went into an educational fund called the Father Casto Marrapese Scholarship, a fund that still stands today and which high school students of Italian heritage can use toward an education at OSU or any college education.
Admission to the event is $5 for adults and children 12 and under are free. Brunetto said the Ohio Union has purchased tickets for students to buy at a discounted rate so they might attend the Italian Festival this year.
“The environment itself is very unique, it’s very rare you walk around Columbus and you hear people speaking in Italian … it’s a very interesting, lively ambiance in that sense,” Rabe said.
When asked to describe the festival and the Italian culture, Brunetto and her husband, Rick Brunetto, a festival co-chair, used the words “carnivàle” and “familia.”
“There’s so much going on … just a custom Italian celebration,” Landa Brunetto said.