Balistreri Sendik’s is the Sponsor of the Italian Heritage Photo and Pompeii Church Exhibit


Always one of the most viewed and most commented upon attractions at Festa Italiana is the Italian Heritage Photo Exhibit that will appear in the new Miller Stage area.


When witnessing the thousands of people who annually view the vintage photo exhibit, expect to see a wide range of emotional reactions. You will see tears from some upon viewing a photograph of a deceased family member or relative they so loved and cherished. You will see smiles from others when they see a photograph from years gone by of their mother, father or grandparents at work or in a military uniform or enjoying themselves at a picnic. You will certainly see many people conversing with each other as they view the vintage photos and recall the good-old-days.


For younger generations, the exhibit gives them an opportunity to see what life was like for their ancestors – from the living conditions years ago, to the type of work they performed, and the experiences they had.


This year, our collection of more than twenty-five hundred photographs of families, street scenes and the places of business of Milwaukee’s early Italians will be showcased in the vintage photo exhibition at Festa Italiana, Friday, July 21 through Sunday, July 23.


Vintage Photos-Ceci

Buon Anniversario Sendik’s – Happy Anniversary Sendik’s!

We are proud to celebrate the 91st anniversary of Sendik’s. We feel privileged that they have chosen to share this significant milestone with Festa Italiana through their sponsorship of the Pompeii Tent and Italian Heritage Photo Exhibit.


Sendik’s is a stunning example of the Italian experience in Milwaukee, those who love what they do, those who insist on quality, those with a strong work ethic, and those whose businesses stand the test of time, because they are emotionally invested in what they do for a living. Sendik’s history is our history.


Since many Italian immigrants had been farmers and grocers who sold fruits and vegetables in Italy and Sicily, when they came to Milwaukee, they specialized in what they knew. They loaded small carts with seasonal fruits and vegetables, pushed their carts through Milwaukee’s streets and sold produce. When people heard the call of the vegetable and fruit peddler, they came out of their homes to shop.



Festa Italiana is honored to feature vintage photographs celebrating the history of Sendik’s and the Balistreri family. We are proud to open our doors and welcome them in, and we encourage all guests at Festa to show their support by walking through the exhibit and celebrating this momentous occasion with such a fine, well-respected Milwaukee business.

New Location

Our exhibit this year will be located in the Miller Area.  Specifically, we will be in the new Summerfest Store along the main walkway.  An advantage is the exhibit will be in a building that will protect the photographs and artifacts from the elements.  An advantage to our visitors is that the building has air conditioning.


Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Paintings on Loan from the Milwaukee County Historical Society

In Milwaukee’s Italian community, early immigrants created a church to act as the heart of their neighborhood. Known to all as the “little pink church”, Our Lady of Pompeii served as the hub for all religious and community activity throughout the Italian community.  Built in 1904 and painted pink, the church was decorated with the finest statuary and artwork that Italian craftsmanship could provide.  Among the religious décor were a series of twelve murals, each painted on canvas and fit into the plasterwork on the Pompeii’s ceiling.


Each mural depicts a religious event celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church.  While most depict the Holy Family, others glorify the role that patron saints played in the denomination’s early history.  When the church was torn down in 1967 to make way for freeway expansion, the murals and other religious artifacts were in danger of being lost, and along with it their significance to one of Milwaukee’s largest ethnic groups.


It was the foresight of one man, Mario A. Carini, who rescued the murals from auction and stored them for safekeeping.  In 2007, he donated them to the Milwaukee County Historical Society and in 2010, the Coronation of Mary in Heaven was restored to her former glory. This painting, along with several others, will be part of this year’s exhibit. (Milwaukee County Historical Society)



The relationship between Mario Carini and the Milwaukee County Historical Society lasted for nearly forty years. Mario made his first donation to the collection in 1980 and over the decades greatly enhanced our holdings of material related to the Italian-American community in Milwaukee. His generosity also extended to financial donations to ensure the proper care and preservation of artifacts, photos, and documents so that they are available for generations to come. But, perhaps the best part of the relationship was talking to Mario about the individual items. With his encyclopedic mind, he could recall every detail about the objects and impart all the wonderful stories they have to tell. Mario is dearly missed by MCHS, but fortunately we have his collections to help us carry on those stories and memories.


In memory of Mario Carini, the Pompeii Church and Heritage Photo Exhibit will give visitors an opportunity to donate to the continued preservation of these artifacts by the Milwaukee County Historical Society. 

Return of Holy Crucifix and St. Rocco

The Holy Crucifix and the St. Rocco Society have not been to Festa in a number of years.


Milwaukee’s Italians The Early Years by Mario A. Carini


Both secular and religious mutual aid societies were established by Italian immigrants in Milwaukee.  The societies provided sickness and death benefits to their members.


Members of the Holy Crucifix were from Santo Stefano di Camastra.   They established a society in 1905.  They disbanded several years ago, but before doing so, restored their vada and statues.  The San Rocco Society was established in 1925.


The exhibit will include the Holy Crucifix Statues on their vada and the St. Rocco Statue.





















Last year we prepared a slideshow of weddings and U.S. Military.  We are in the process of creating additional slideshows for our studio portraits of adults and children.  These photo shows allow us to include everyone who donated a photo to the exhibit.  Our collection continues to grow, and space prevents us from exhibiting every photo.

Weddings –la storia d’amore

We have taken all of the beautiful wedding photographs and transformed them into a heart-warming slide show of vintage wedding photographs, some taken 60 or more years ago. The warmth and nostalgia of these photos will no doubt touch the hearts of those who stop to enjoy the slide show – the photos portray love, promise, joy, family and friends. They are timeless. The love they felt and the anticipation of a long, happy, healthy marriage are no different than the hopes and dreams of those who marry today.

Our Servicemen

A second poignant slide show will be devoted to Italians and Italian Americans who served in the military. As guests see their faces, we hope they will feel a sense of gratitude and respect for their service, and appreciate that those soldiers considered themselves to be both Italian and American as soon as they arrived in the United States, and they fought proudly for our country, and for our freedom and our future.



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