Get a broader view of Italian traditions than what you’ve seen on TV or in movies with the 4th annual Italian Festival of Arizona at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall on March 25 and 26.
The festival brings a touch of the old country and modern Italy into a city-square-like setting, with diverse forms of music, food, dance and artwork that shape Italian culture.
The festival has moved to the mall from the SouthBridge area in Old Town Scottsdale.
Co-chair Christina Forrest, a board member for the Italian Association of Arizona, said although the festival will have a different vibe this year, it will still provide an authentic Italian experience.
“It will have that Italian piazza feel,” Forrest said. “In Italy, every city has a giant piazza, where there’s entertainment and events.”
Forrest said many people have pre-conceived notions about Italian culture, and the event helps to deepen their understanding, in an immersive way.
“A lot of us here who are Italian American think Italian culture is the pizza, pasta, Sinatra. Actual Italian culture in Italy is very different,” Forrest said. “We are trying to keep [our festival] authentically Italian, as much as we can.”
Co-chair Roland Clarke, also a member of the association, said the festival fits with his organization’s educational mission.
“Our objective in the Italian association is to bring Italian culture to the Valley and to expose Americans to the culture, food, art, music,” Clarke said.
This year, Gruppo Storico Sbandieratori di Fivizzano, a flag-waving troupe out of Tuscany, will return with 16 flag wavers, drummers, trumpet players and dancers.
Audiences will also have the chance to listen to authentic Neapolitan music from guitarist Pietro Rainone and singer Anna Calemme; classical crossover music from Arizona-based singer Alexa Nadramia and a blend of traditional and modern music from the Vince Chiarelli Band of Chicago and the Sicilian Band of Los Angeles.
Los Tres Tenores, a group comprised of tenors from the Phoenix Opera, will perform with soprano Lisanne Norman Brooks and piano accompaniment from Phoenix Opera artistic director John Massaro.
During the festival, food vendors will bring the tastes and smells of Italy to the Valley with selections such as wood-fired pizza, pasta, Italian ice, porchetta sandwiches, sausage and peppers, espresso and gelato.
Guests can purchase glasses of Italian wine to complement their meals or try Lemoncocco, an organic drink blending lemon and coconut flavors.
At the festival, local vendors will sell items such as Italian imports, ravioli rollers, paintings, jewelry, pottery, clothing, organic tea and gift items.
For children and the young-at-heart, a face painter will create unique designs similar to Venetian masks.
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Along with association, other local Italian groups, including the Arizona American Italian Club and the Sons of Italy, will have a presence at the festival. At their booths, local residents can learn more about how to get involved with these local clubs and organizations.
Attendance for the Italian festival has increased from 2,000 people the first year to around 14,000 people last year. Along with continuing to grow the festival, the association hopes to establish a Little Italy in Phoenix in the future.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a non-profit organization offering food, clothing, housing and medical services to people in poverty.
Italian Festival of Arizona
When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26.
Where: Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale.
Admission: $10 presale tickets, $15 at the door, free children under 12 years old.
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