Gilda Capitano said her children, grandchildren and others who attended the 16th annual Festa Italiana could browse cultural exhibits, taste Italian foods, watch a grape stomping or cheer on the Italian Idol finalists.
Capitano, whose parents were born in Sicily, said all the food, games and festivities centered around the core Italian value.
“It boils down to keeping family together,” said Capitano, adding the event is a family reunion for many of the Italian participants.
“We are trying to teach the younger generation how important it is to keep the Italian Club building going and our traditions alive.”
Capitano, who was born in Ybor City and is the president of the Ladies Auxiliary for the Italian Club, said the festivities started April 4 with a Wines of Italy event. It continued April 6 with the Italian Idol contest, homemade Vino competition and food truck rally. April 7 commenced with a Mass and procession in the Italian Club Capitano Grand Ballroom, a Taste of Italy and entertainment.
Casey Gartland, 27, of Riverview, said he has an Irish and Armenian background, but likes to attend all the cultural festivals in Ybor.
“I am having a blast,” he said. “I’m learning how to play bocce ball. I’m new to the area. Every time they have something, it’s an excuse to come out.”
Bob Gilmore of New Tampa watched the bocce ball tournament. He attended the festival with his wife, Susan, and their son, Brett, 25.
“My wife is Italian and we came out as a family,” he said. “My wife is great Italian cook. Today we tried the food trucks, a corn dog and pastrami sandwiches.”
Sal Guagliardo of South Tampa, the president of the Italian Club, said he estimates more than 20,000 people came out for the festivities at the Italian Club, 1731 E. 7th Ave, and nearby Centennial Park.
Guagliardo, whose grandparents were immigrants from Sicily, manned the Italian Club booth that sold pasta, sausages, eggplant fries and pizza.
“Our members consist of 750 from all over,” he said. “They are not all Italian.”
He said the proceeds from the Festa Italiana benefit the Italian Club restoration fund.