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Little Italy FESTA! Celebrates 17 Years

  • Little Italy FESTA!
  • San Diego's Little Italy
  • Gesso Italiano
  • Louis Prima Jr.
  • Little Italy FESTA!
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San Diego's Little Italy FESTA! is billed as the largest Italian festival on the west coast. And when this always highly-anticipated event hits town for its 17th annual rendition, it will be bigger than ever. Staged by the Little Italy Association, FESTA! Takes place October 9 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., with events going on throughout the historic neighborhood. An estimated 120,000 attendees turned out last year, and a similar crowd is expected this time around.

"People come from all over the country,'' said Sandi Cottrell, the festival's event coordinator. "The heart and soul of the neighborhood (is rooted) in Italian culture. Everyday the neighborhood celebrates that fact." Adding to the 2011 celebration is the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Republic of Italy. More than 150 food, art and retail vendors will be on hand, and the many restaurants that line India Street will be open for business - and they will all be packed.

There will be several food demonstrations at the "Italian Table" stage on West Cedar Street, between India and Columbia Street. Deborah Scott, executive chef/partner of Indigo Grill and one of the most eminent restaurateurs in the county will be displaying her talents. Luigi Negroni, of the recently opened Davanti Enoteca and Fabrizio Cavallini from Bencotto Italian Kitchen are among the others who will be on stage, demonstrating their culinary skills. A pizza tossing contest is also scheduled to take place.

This being an Italian festival, food is first and foremost on everyone's mind. However, FESTA! is offering much more than tasty grub. Head over to Beech Street between India and Columbia to witness a car show, displaying some of Italy's fastest cars and motorcycles. "There will be tons of Alfa Romeos and Maseratis,'' Cottrell said.

The athletically inclined might want to check out an Italian stickball exhibition, or take part in a bocce ball tournament which will go on all day long. "Little Italy FESTA! is the best.'' said LIA president Steven Galasso. "We are proud of our Italian heritage and this event creates a day where everyone can celebrate our love of Italy.''

One of the featured events is Gesso Italiano (Italian chalk) where some 140 artists from across the country will be putting down their chalk art on the neighborhood streets, which will be cleaned up after the proceedings are over. And to honor Italy's 150th anniversary, artists will take a stab at recreating the Sistine Chapel ceiling with chalk. This takes place next to Our Lady of the Rosary Church, on State Street.

"It should be quite spectacular,'' said Cottrell. "It's never been done in San Diego. There's really a lot going on (including a children's play area) quite a series of events." Little Italy FESTA! Will feature a variety of musical performers on three stages playing tunes throughout the day. This year's headliner is Louis Prima Jr. and the Witness, featuring Sarah Speigel. Prima Jr. is the son of famed trumpeter/bandleader Louis Prima, most known for "Just a Gigolo" and other catchy songs.

"The event is expanding,'' Cottrell said, "There's a level of entertainment that hasn't been at the festival. It's important to change up every year. We have something new and exciting.'' FESTA! is one of the biggest and most entertaining events in San Diego county. But Cottrell is quick to credit over 100 volunteers that help make it happen. "Gathering sponsors, lining up entertainment, planning with the fire and health department, it's really a full year of planning,'' Cottrell said.

For more information visit LittleItalySD.com

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