Historical Perspective

Festitalia has been able to sustain itself over 49 years due to the leadership and participation of many  individuals who served as volunteers on the board of directors working under the leadership of past board chairs.

1976 & 1977
Frank Raso

Frank was the Founding Chair of Festitalia and he along with the founding board of directors evolved the program coordinated with Eaton’s to become the Italian community in Hamilton’s very own special showcase of Italian-Canadian culture and heritage.   In 1977,  the Bellini Opera House of Catania Sicily (approx. 125 people) performed the opera La Boheme.  In this year, the Palio di Siena was established and the whole board dressed in Siena’s Costumes and a parade held with horses took place in downtown Hamilton. 

1978 & 1979
Sam M. Cino

La Bohème was such a hit that the then Mayor of Hamilton, Jack McDonald invited Sam M. Cino, during his term as Festitalia Chair in 1978/79, to char a steering Committee that founded Opera Hamilton. 

1980 & 1981
Frank Attardo

It was during Frank Attardo’s term as Chair in 1980/81 that the Miss Festitalia scholarship was started, as well as the publication of the first Festitalia magazine, the regional food day and open-air Mass at Gage Park celebrated by Cardinal Carpino from the Vatican. It was also during this time that an internationally recognized bicycle race was held in downtown Hamilton, as well as the Italian Piazza in Gore Park and a high-end fashion show complete with motorcycle police brigade and live Bengal tigers.

1982 & 1983
Angelo DiIanni

During his tenure as Chair, Angelo was as a leader and driving force in maintaining the Italian language and culture within our community and helped to establish Italian language instruction via Dante Alighieri Centre for Italian Language and Culture.

1984 & 1985
Larry DiIanni

In his tenureship as Chair, Larry initiated, evolved  and maintained some  important relationships with Festitalia partner contacts in Italy that included folk groups, artists and artisans.

1986 & 1987
Dominic Rappazzo

Some of Dominic’s key roles as Chair included being the ceremonial chairperson to kick off the Tiger Cat Labor Day Game and the Festitalia Regatta in Hamilton Harbor (with the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club). Also, during this time, the ever-popular Vino and Amore moved to its new home at the Hamilton Convention Centre providing Hamiltonians to experience Italian culture over two nights.

1988 & 1989
Vincenza Travale

Vincenza Travale was known for her passion and support of the arts and dedication to bridging the gap with youth in our education system.

1990 & 1991
Frank DeNardis

Frank DeNardis was an ambassador in the business community that ensured that Festitalia was financially viable to continue operating. Loved by presidents and their secretaries and especially the vendors in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market opening many doors for community partnerships.

1992 & 1993
Angela Rzazewski

Angela Rzazewski, a well-recognized educator in our community, brought her leadership and collaboration to ensure that everyone’s contribution was recognized.

1994 & 1995
Ezio Settimi

During Ezio Settimi’s term as Chair, a special Mass was inaugurated at the Cathedral of Christ the King to honor grandparents who were 75 years of age or older. Today, the Festitalia Mass continues to be the heart and spirit of the Festival.

1996 & 1997
Margherita Lawlor

Margherita ,recognized educational leader, applied her passion and openness to help unite the Italian culture in the Hamilton community. A real leader in establishing and maintaining the author’s nights.

1998 & 1999
Phil DiFrancesco

Phil was a devoted leader and made significant contributions in Festitalia’s most memorable event “Vino e Amore”.

2000 & 2001
Vicki DeSantis

Vicki DeSantis was a professional and compassionate leader who ensured all the values of the Italian culture were recognized rather than default to stereotypes. Truly an inspirational leader in spearheading and organizing many of our community’s most memorable gala events.

2002 & 2003
Ron Corsini

The inclusivity of Festitalia was apparent when then Chair Ron Corsini introduced the motto, “Festitalia Welcomes the World” and invited other cultural organizations to share in the Italian culture. It was at this time that The Honorable Lincoln Alexander was invited to be Festitalia’s Honorary Chair.

2004 & 2005
Mary Romeo

During Mary’s term as Chair, Festitalia partnered with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boris Brott Festival and Chamber Works in a series of concerts of Italian music known as Musica Italia. It was also during this time that Festitalia held a screening of the film “Perlasca, the Courage of a Just Man”, raising $98,000 to be shared by St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation and the Human Rights Museum.

2006 & 2007
Joe Baiardo

Joe’s most memorable experience during his term as Chair was the introduction of Festitalia to the Good Shepherd Centre regular hot meal program guests. Joe recalls that “board members assisted in serving over 300 individuals in need of a meal, to great Italian food and music”. Joe also fondly recalled one patron saying, “I wish it was Festitalia EVERYDAY!”

2008 & 2009
Dennis Concordia

Dennis Concordia, has made contributions to establish  financial stability to the organization while serving as Treasurer for over 20 years.  During his tenure as Chair he championed a strategic plan on Board Succession from the founding group to the next generation of Italian Canadian community leaders. He believed in the next generation and he says it’s gratifying to see that we are still vibrant and full of promise for the future.

2010 & 2011
Matt Moccio

It’s apparent now that Festitalia appeals to a newer and younger generation of Italian Canadians wanting to share the richness of the Italian culture with the whole community. It was Matt Moccio, during his term as Chair in 2010 that coined the phrase, “Festitalia is 35 years old and getting younger”.

2012 & 2013
Sam Cino

The Festitalia Italian Heritage Awards was introduced during Sam Cino’s term as Chair in 2012. The Italian Heritage Awards program was established to recognize the enormous contributions made by Canadians of Italian descent to enrich the City of Hamilton and to make it a better community for all its citizens.

2014 & 2015
Maria Motschman

Maria led the celebration of the festival’s 40th Anniversary and continued toward introducing new activities for the next generation, including a children’s party with SOI Roma Imperial Lodge.

2016 & 2017
Anthony Macaluso

Anthony focussed building and renewing community partnerships with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and others.  Additionally, during his tenure Festitalia saw the introduction of the Festitalia Scholarship, the Fratellanza Racalmutese regional dinner and Young Italian’s Night

2018 & 2019
Pat Mostacci

Pat continued to promote the relationships with the local regional clubs and food nights by attending all events.  Elevating partnerships with the local government. Continued discussions with the City of Hamilton for a FESTITALIA street designation.  Part of a Hamilton consortium that attended Parliament Hill for the announcement of Italian Heritage Month in June 2019 across Canada. The re-introduction of live music with InCanto Productions to facilitate and present – InCanto – A journey of Italian Music Through Time

2020 & 2021
Anthony Macaluso

The COVID-19 pandemic affected us all, and Festitalia was no exception. Anthony Macaluso was asked to return as Chair and led the transition of Festitalia to an almost completely virtual festival. The festival saw many events fill the void of our typical ones over these two years, including cooking segments, a musical collection, an art history presentation,  a city-wide restaurant tour and more. As the pandemic draws to end, Festitalia looks forward to emerging once again to highlight and share the best of Italian-Canadian culture.

2022 - 2024
Mark Farrugia

During Mark’s time as chair, he and the Board focused on returning to in-person events and a festival that revived the spirit of Hamilton’s Italian Community. The introduction of a weekend Youth Soccer Festival in conjunction with Mount Hamilton Youth Soccer and a new visual arts exhibition were some of the additions we made to the new program calendar.   Attendance at all of the festival events exceeded our expectations and set up Festitalia for many more years of success.

Vita Maria Fortunato

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