Forty years ago, an Italian community torn apart by urban renewal projects came together in the Third Ward to celebrate Italian culture in what would become the first ethnic festival in Milwaukee. Today, this annual festival is known as Festa Italiana and this year marks its 40th Anniversary. The festival runs from July 21-23 at the Henry Maier Festival Park and is the largest festival of its kind in the United States. Festa is seen as a “coming home” party for many Italians and it displays the rich Italian culture that has been dispersed throughout Milwaukee.
To celebrate its 40th Anniversary, Festa Italiana is offering a $7 for 7 Days Spring Fever Ticket Deal which runs now through June 25. This offer is only available online though, so buy your tickets now to ensure you’ll be enjoying a cannoli while riding on a gondola on Lake Michigan when Festa Italiana begins!
The annual Festa Italiana mass and procession will be on Sunday, July 23 at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at 11 a.m. Admission to the mass is free, and following will be a procession of societies and patron saints as well as a benediction, as this year marks 50 years since the destruction of Our Lady of Pompeii Church in the Old Third Ward.
Like every year, you can expect to find authentic Italian food, music and cultural exhibits. Apart from that, festival-goers can take part in traditional Italian activities such as a bocce ball tournament and riding in a gondola.
To help celebrate its 40th Anniversary, musical guests such as Sal “The Voice” Valentinetti, a finalist on America’s Got Talent, and hometown favorite BoDeans are set to headline at the festival.
A tribute concert for famed accordionist Dick Contino will take place on July 23 at 6 p.m. on the Miller Lite stage to honor Contino, who recently passed away. Contino was a popular favorite at Festa and played the festival 34 times in the festival’s 40-year history.