Italian Fest will celebrate its 15th anniversary on Saturday at IM | News, Sports, Jobs
IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain will celebrate its “Quindicesimo Anniversario della Festa Italiana” Saturday.
For 15 years, the Iron Mountain Downtown Development Authority has hosted the annual Italian Festival to honor the area’s rich Italian heritage.
This year’s festivities kick off Saturday at noon and doors close at 11 p.m. on the Iron Mountain Town Center Stage. After the opening comments, Mike Izzo and his son, Teddy, will sing “God bless America.”
“They will sing in Italian to start”, said Mindy Meyers, Iron Mountain’s DDA program director.
Meyers said he has planned a full day of fun and activities for the whole family.
“It will be a great celebration of the Italian ‘familia'”, she says. “It’s quite exciting.”
Classical duo Jan and Gino will perform from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., with opera singer Anastasia Lee on stage from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Blues band Kind of Blues will entertain the crowd from 3:30-6:30 p.m., while popular variety group Next Myle will close out the evening from 7-11 p.m.
“We have great programming – it’s going to be so much fun,” Meyers said.
UP Dance Academy returns again for a performance at 5:30 p.m.
In addition to music, they are bringing back traditional Italian Fest competitions.
The Grape Stomp Contest begins at 3:30 p.m., with the Italian Dinner Toss at 4:40 p.m.
This year’s Noodle Kiss contest, which begins at 5:15 p.m., has been modified to follow COVID-19 guidelines.
“We will have participants trying to swallow a plate of oiled noodles with their hands behind their backs,” DDA Events Coordinator Kenzie Williamsen, noting that in the past the competition was a two-person team trying to replicate the “noodle kiss” scene from the classic Disney animated film, “The Lady and the Tramp.”
“The crowd loves watching these contests – everyone enjoys them,” Meyers said.
The DDA is working with Mountain Media House to do a photo challenge. Italian festival-goers are encouraged to take photos on mobile phones and post on social media – Facebook, Instagram or TikTok – with the hashtag #yooperitalian. Mountain Media House will select their favorite from all submissions. The winner will receive a gift basket from the DDA.
“We want to see how our ‘Yoper Italians’ celebrate their heritage at Italian Fest,” Meyers said.
Michael Loduca returns for a wine tasting, featuring eight different selections made in Italy. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20, which includes a special 15th anniversary glass of wine as well as Loduca tastings.
In addition to wine, they will have all their favorite beers, including Peroni, an Italian beer. They will also offer a variety of hard seltzers, teas and more. And new this year will be their craft beer station. “If you missed Brew Fest, here’s your chance to get some specialty beers,” Meyers said.
The DDA has brought back its house brand wine, Italian Fest Lambrusco. Bottles will be available for $15.
It wouldn’t be an Italian date without authentic cuisine. Local food vendors Crispigna’s Italian Market and Northside Noodle Company work with Spiro’s to provide traditional dishes, as well as Dulce Nulla bringing cannoli, a classic Italian pastry.
Albert Santoni of Dickinson Homes volunteered to run a booth for Sassoferrato, Iron Mountain’s sister town in Italy. They will have a large map of Italy so participants can pin down where their family comes from.
“We’ll have a visual to see where a lot of our Italian family is from, which is another exciting new feature,” Meyers said.
A free children’s area will open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., with inflatable games, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and a magician. “Kids can also make their own noodle necklace,” said Williamsen.
At 3 p.m., children can participate in the Leaning Tower Noodle Contest.
A separate tent will be available for new mums to feed, as well as take a break from the sun.
A host of volunteers will be on the ground carrying “Volunteer for the Italian festa” equipment, Williamsen said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the DDA office at 906-774-8534 or through the Iron Mountain DDA Facebook page.
“We are truly delighted with our volunteers and treat them like one big family,” Meyers said.
Event sponsors include LiUNA (Workers International Union of North America) Local 1329, Iron Mountain Area Tourism, First National Bank & Trust, Erickson Jewelers, Northern Interstate Bank, Dickinson Homes, Slumberland Furniture, Mountain Media House and 41 Lumber.
The DDA reminds the community that the Italian Fest is its biggest and longest fundraiser.
“All funds raised go directly back to our city center”, Meyers pointed out.
The DDA provides assistance such as grants for facades and downtown assistance programs each year and organizes micro-events throughout the year such as Girls Night Out and the Christmas Walk.
“This year we are introducing a Pumpkin Walk in October,” Meyers said. “All of this is possible through our great festivals in downtown Iron Mountain.”
Admission is $10 at the door, children 12 and under are admitted free.
As a partner of the Tour de Dickinson on Saturday morning, race participants receive free entry to Italian Fest with their race wristband.
The DDA will have a merchandise station selling t-shirts, wine, cookbooks and more. To mark this special anniversary, they will be selling “Italian Yooper” and “Quindicesimo Birthday” T shirts. They will also have youth sizes available.
Anyone unable to attend the festival but wishing to purchase a t-shirt can email [email protected]
But Meyers and Williamsen encourage coming downtown to get a feel for what this festival is all about.
“It’s so much more than wine, it has all kinds of fun activities, great entertainment and delicious food.” Meyers said. “But really, it’s about bringing our community together — living this moment with each other — your ‘familia’ — and celebrating our Italian heritage that we have in Upper Michigan.”