Every June, at the corner of East Street and Stevens Street, Indianapolis residents and visitors alike gather to celebrate the rich history and customs of Italy. Presented by the Italian Heritage Society of Indiana, the Italian Street Festival is an eagerly anticipated event and provides the opportunity for attendees to get a dose of culture while enjoying the unique sights, sounds, and tastes of another country.
The Italian Heritage Society of Indiana, a nonprofit association, was established in 1993 as an offshoot of the Columbus ’92 Commission for the State of Indiana, an organization formed to provide Indiana residents with the opportunity to participate in the nation-wide, year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America. The Italian Street Festival showcases the mission of the organization, which is to allow residents of the state of Indiana, those with Italian roots as well as people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, to experience and celebrate Italian traditions, arts, and religion.
Live music and dancing is the main attraction of the celebration. Each day of the festival, bands take the stage to perform Italian music, characterized by instrumental and vocal classical melodies as well as the traditional opera. Dancing follows, and festival attendees are encouraged to join in and learn the traditional circle dances, line dances, and couples dances, such as the tarantella, a popular courtship dance. Amusement park rides are set up as well for children and adults alike, a more universally embraced pastime that, combined with the ethnic activities of the festival, keeps festival-goers busy all day!
Along with the attractions and activities, as with any cultural festival, one of the most alluring draws of the event is the food! Over 25 different meats and pastas, as well as salads for the lighter palate, are featured each year. A tantalizing combination of smells, including sizzling Italian sausages, fresh bread, cannolis, pizza, fettuccine, and meatball sandwiches, invites the crowd to sample a full range of delicacies. And of course, desserts can’t be forgotten-a full range of authentic pastries and cakes, including biscotti, Sicilian cake with chocolate filling, and of course, tiramisu, are available. Authentic Italian wines and beer can be purchased as well. As Italy is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, you won’t want to miss trying these adult beverages!
Even though there are numerous reasons to attend the festival, one important one should not be overlooked. One of the most significant elements of any ethnic event is the religious traditions of its showcased country. Every year on a Saturday, a traditional Catholic mass is conducted in late afternoon, and everyone is invited to attend. The service is followed by a colorful Italian religious procession through the streets of Indy. A second mass caps off the spiritual festivities. At both masses, the Master’s Chorale of Indianapolis is on hand to perform time-honored Catholic hymns. Don’t miss the chance this year to take part in the Italian Street Festival and celebrate the roots of Italian civilization!