18 September 2018
On September 8 and 9 in Lakewood, CO, just west of Denver, the annual Festival Italiano brought Italian food, crafts and dancing for all to enjoy.
Before going to the festival, I expected a cliché slice of what Americans view of Italy. In some ways, I got what I expected. But in others, I got the opposite.
First walking into the festival – stationed along two intersecting streets of the Belmar plaza – you would notice hundreds of colorful flags hanging above curious pedestrians, many dressed in the red, white and green colors of Italy.
The flags represented different regions of the country, such as Sicily and Puglia.
Clue number one that this wouldn’t be a generic Italian celebration.
Then, upon entering the blocked off streets, a small band of Italian singers paraded along, caroling to anyone willing to hear. Ciao bella, ciao bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
Clue number two that this wouldn’t be a generic-Italian celebration.
Right at the intersection of the two streets was held a flag-tossing show with performers dressed in medieval costumes, each evoking sentiments of regional pride and celebration with every toss of their flag. Spectators gathered in masses around the square to witness the extravaganza.
The food lightly followed the authenticity that Italians are known for bringing come to life, while still following American festival style: meatball sandwiches, fried calamari “fingers” and gelato.
Several booths were dedicated to selling artisan products to take home, such as pastas and vinaigrettes. Some of these drew particular interest, such as free wine tastings.
The festival ended for me after a short hour or so, being as small as it was. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable: with as many cultures as we have in the United States, it’s always good to explore and learn more about cultures that exist in and outside of our country, even if under a slightly-Americanized lens.
In the end, the festival perhaps didn’t only seek to sell Italian products and spread Italian cheer: it also gave visitors a place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere.
The day for me ended exactly as I had hoped: eating tortellini and mussels in the shade on the patio of Brodo Scratch Kitchen, an Italian-style restaurant claiming to serve the best mussels in all of Denver.
Though the mussels were delicious, the surrounding atmosphere – with singers, dancers and Italophones walking the streets – enveloped me in warmth and friendliness.
Whether authentically Italian or not, the Festival Italiano’s warm and exciting bustle brought comfort to my day, and surely to other guests’ day as well.