They’re going regional.
After a challenge three years ago from Mayor Kip Holden, the Greater Baton Rouge American Italian Association is working to expand its annual Italian Heritage Festa beyond the community.
“He (Holden) said, ‘We would like this to be bigger than Baton Rouge,’” festa co-chairman Frank Arrigo says.
To that end, more than 50 representatives of the Italian American Heritage Society of Birmingham, Alabama, and 30 members of Shreveport’s Sons of Italy are confirmed for Sunday’s celebration at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium. With the high temperature expected to reach 99, festa officials are stressing that the atrium is air-conditioned.
The 2014 event pulled in 1,500-2,000 visitors throughout the day, and Arrigo says they’d “love to hit between 2,500 and 3,000 this year.”
Although the full day of events is on Sunday, the fun begins Saturday morning with a bocce ball tournament. Action in the classic Italian game starts at 9 a.m., again at the atrium. Anyone can play, and it’s free, Arrigo says.
The festa’s Saturday night dinner, dance and show featuring New Orleans singer Lena Prima starts at 6:30 p.m. (see accompanying story for more details).
New to Sunday’s events are screenings of the documentary “The Italian Mirgration to Ireland,” an Italian history lecture by Sal Serio and addition of the nonprofit organization Anna’s Grace to competitors in the Celebrity Charity Grape Stomp.
Those preferring the finished product can take the Vino Stroll. For $20, participants can sip three different wines at locations throughout the festa. Proceeds go to McMains Children’s Developmental Center.
11 a.m.-5 p.m.:
A.I.A. Membership Table (atrium)
Bella Belle Italian Cafe (food court)
Bistro Italia (back of atrium)
Vino stroll benefiting McMains Children’s Developmental Center (atrium)
St. Joseph’s Altar (atrium)
“The Italian Migration to Ireland” film (side room)
Little Italy Shopping Village (atrium)
Genealogy & History by Sal Serio (side room)
Free face painting by Tabitha Miller (atrium)
Bocce ball (side room)
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: The New Orleans Express Band (stage)
12:15 p.m.-12:30 p.m.: Presentation of the AIA scholarship (stage)
12:30 p.m.-1 p.m.: Italian 101 with Dr. Joe Ricapito (side room)
12:30 p.m.-1 p.m.: The New Orleans Express Band (stage)
1 p.m.-1:45 p.m.: Presentation of the 2015 Italian Heritage Festa Maids (atrium stage)
1:45 p.m.-2:15 p.m.: “Eh Cumpari,” audience participation (stage)
2:15 p.m.-3 p.m.: Celebrity charity grape stomp (stage)
2:30 p.m.-4:15 p.m.: Educational/entertaining kids’ activities (adult must accompany, side room)
3 p.m.-5 p.m.: Live dance and Italian music (atrium stage)