With about 15 booths made with colorful roofs covering folding tables filled with an array of Italian pastries, foods homemade by Italian club members, and Italian wines, Festa Italiana launched its humble beginning.
Article continues below
It was 1978. The wine flowed, Italian music played and the aroma of Italian food filled the air.
Today, Festa Italiana is one of the largest ethnic festivals in the city, an event that attracts thousands of Houstonians!
Move forward to the year 1990. It was time to grow. Moving from its original location behind the Sacred Heart Hall off Airline to Saint Anne’s Church on Westheimer meant more space, a greater audience potential and a bigger challenge.
To entertain the larger audience, Festa Italiana expanded to 25 booths, added the favorite Italian bowling game of Bocce Ball, and presented Italian performers and bands from the Houston area, Chicago and New York City.
Festa Italiana has always been a “family” affair in more ways than one. Many of the booths were operated by members of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Greater Houston, Inc. (Italian Federation).
The Italian Federation was the umbrella organization for the 23 Houston-area Italian clubs.
Each club maintains its own identity, mission and membership, but joined together to create the Federation and to build the Italian Cultural and Community Center.
The Festa became the main fundraising event of the year to support the Federation’s mission to promote the Italian culture and heritage, to sponsor social events and activities, and to perform works of charity.
Today the Federation is made up of members-at-large rather than just clubs and their members.
The clubs retain their affiliation and continue to make and serve the wonderful Italian cuisine the public seeks at this annual event.
Italian regional foods, particularly Sicilian, were prepared and cooked by Italians and served with all the flavor and flourish that is pure Italian style.
Italian business owners provided food and service at no cost, and the children of the various club founders worked relentlessly setting up, building, managing and promoting Festa Italiana.
Proceeds from the Festa Italiana support the Italian Cultural and Community Center, the Italian language school, scholarships, and many cultural events presented for the public each year.
As its popularity grew, the expansion of Festa continued. As Houston’s largest ethnic festival, it was time to move to the streets of downtown. The year was 1993. The Festa was located around the reflection pool of City Hall, in Tranquility Park and on the terrace of the city library, taking over three city blocks and four streets.
In 1996, Festa Italiana left its downtown location and set up its celebration in Velvet Park off of Buffalo Speedway. It was an ideal location with oak trees lining the streets and open spaces that were perfect for a festival.
When this location succumbed to Houston’s growth and development, Festa Italiana returned downtown in 1999, where it continued to attract thousands and became bigger, better and even more Italian than its originators could have imagined.
The year for change was 2009, when the festival started a new tradition on the grounds of the University of St. Thomas. The move brought it back into the heart of Houston with a brand new look and feel.
Good to know:
Tickets Price: $5 – $25
Where: 3800 Montrose Blvd., Houston, Tx., Grounds of the University of St. Thomas
When: Until October 13, 2019 ■