ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — After missing last year due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Rockford’s longest running festival returns with a weekend of Italian food and entertainment.
The Greater Rockford Italian American Association is back with the 42nd Festa Italiana, held on the ground of Boylan High School, 4000 St Francis Drive.
“This is like a big family reunion,” said Karen Cantele. “So, on top of missing them for a whole year, it’s what we look forward to: being with all our friends and working for a good cause.”
The three day festival is a scholarship fundraiser, providing more than $746,000 over the past 41 years.
Visitors say the highlight of Festa Italiana is the food.
“I made over a hundred gallons of red sauce the other day, fifteen gallons of alfredo, and twelve pints of pesto. So, we’re ready to go!” said Festa Italiana chairman, Frank Tarara. “And that’s just the beginning. I’ll make some more, probably tomorrow morning.”
This year, the event is done in honor of first responders and festival goers are urged to take part.
“We’re gonna make a wall of hearts in the culture tent and let people put the name of anyone working in that field, fire, paramedic, nurse, doctor, you name it,” said Cantele. “They can put a wall of hearts just to honor everybody for the crazy year we had.”
Festa Italiana also honors Rockford’s rich Italian-American heritage and culture.
“This is like nana’s kitchen. This is like going to your favorite grandma’s house and being in the kitchen. Only we’ve got one big kitchen here. It’s fun. Everybody is family,” said Tarara.
General admission is $5 Friday through Sunday, with free admission for children under 7 and active duty military and veterans.