From its modest beginnings in 1978, Festa Italiana has grown into the largest Italian event of its kind in America today.
As the first ethnic festival in Milwaukee, Festa Italiana originated as a way to bring together an Italian community torn apart by urban renewal projects. Taking place in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, the first Festa Italiana served as a way to reunite the many Italians who longed for the wonderful street festivals that took place in the Third Ward during the summertime. With the displacement of many who lived in the Third Ward and the loss of Our Lady of Pompeii Church, Italians moved elsewhere – but they never stopped talking about those Third Ward festivals. The first Festa was a “coming home” party, as well as a chance to share the best of the Italian culture with the community.
Made possible each year by the work of over 2,000 dedicated volunteers, Festa continues to build on rich traditions as it celebrates the past, present and future of the Italian community in Milwaukee. Supported by the Italian Community Center and its generous community partners, Festa carries on time-honored traditions including the celebration of Sunday Mass and Procession, cultural exhibits, bocce, gondolas, photos of the old Third Ward and Italians in Milwaukee, as well as delicious food and entertainment true to the Italian culture including opera, dance, song and fireworks!
Those who visit Festa today will see that the community aspect of the festival is still very much alive. Whether you are young or old, a newcomer or a Festa veteran, when you come to Festa, you are treated like famiglia (“family”). At Festa Italiana, you are Italian – or as the Italian’s say, tutti Italiani (“everyone’s Italian”)!