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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

First annual Italian heritage festival

On+Saturday%2C+June+10%2C+the+first+annual+Festa+Italiana+event+will+be+held+in+Downtown+Bryan.
Graphic courtesy of Destination Bryan

On Saturday, June 10, the first annual Festa Italiana event will be held in Downtown Bryan.

To celebrate the Italian community in the Brazos Valley, the first ever Festa Italiana will be held in Downtown Bryan on Saturday, June 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Festival-goers can indulge in live music, a pasta eating contest, bocce ball tournament, food and drinks imported from Italy and a kids section full of many different activities.

Destination Bryan Public Relations and Communications Manager Abigail Noel said the Festa Italiana will be free for those wanting to attend. 

“It’s a celebration of the Italian and Sicilian heritage of the Bryan community, there’s lots of cultures that immigrated to Bryan back in the day and the Italians are a big piece of that,” Noel said. 

Noel said there will be a lot of different activities and challenges available to attendees. A pasta eating contest and duos bocce ball tournament contains a $200 and $350 cash prize for first place winners.

Noel said the idea for the event came from a local business owner in the Bryan area. 

“Blake Zietman with Zietman’s Grocery in Downtown Bryan — he came to Destination Bryan and said, ‘I have this idea for an event. I want to celebrate Italian heritage and have food, wine, music and activities,’” Noel said. “He’s really spearheading this entire festival. We are just one of the main sponsors.”

Owner and operator of Zietman’s Grocery Store, Zietman brought up the idea of Festa Italiana and has been putting it together for the last two months.

“We’ll have pastas, pizza by the slice, gelato, a wine garden, Italian beers, Italian cocktails, a bounce house, some arts and crafts for the kids [and] face painters,” Zietman said. “And then I got a sausage and pepper cart, fried risotto ball stuffed with meat, zeppole and lots of other things.”

“The Brazos Valley has a very rich Sicilian immigrant history, they came from two major places in Sicily: Corleone and Poggioreale,” Zietman said. “They came here, farmed, worked and helped build Bryan-College Station and build Brazos Valley.”

Zietman said he was shocked that there were no Italian festivals in the Brazos Valley with there being such a large community, so he threw the idea out and people were excited about it.

“I went out and started recruiting people interested in participating, recruiting sponsors and kinda just put my head down and tried to get as much done as possible,” Zietman said. 

Zietman said he found out about the large Italian community here while working in food service. 

“All the major food purveyors we got [such as] Readfield, which is owned by Ruffino Meats, Messina Hof, which is an Italian owned winery, Scarmardo Produce and my mom’s neighbor in Houston is a guy named Nunzio Martino,” Zietman said. “Nunzio used to bring produce up from the valley and distribute it all over Texas and one of the people he used to do business with was the Scarmardos when they first started.” 

Zietman said money made from the festival will be donated to local charities. 

“Poggioreale In America is an organization of people who immigrated from Poggioreale and they have a scholarship fund so we are going to help them,” Zietman said. “We’re also gonna help Ablaze which is a local outreach in town which does a lot with the church.” 

A research scholar at Texas A&M named Vincenzo Zingales moved to College Station in order to study thermal hydraulics from Castelbuono in Sicily, Italy and said he is planning on attending the festival. 

“I really did not expect it, I was very surprised there is something like this going on here, I thought it was more for big places like Houston or Dallas,” Zingales said. “I am very happy that this thing is going on here and I am curious and excited to see what they are going to do.” 

Zingales said one thing he is looking out for — which is important to the culture — is traditional Italian pizza. He is looking forward to seeing if someone at the festival can make it the traditional way with a thin crust.

“I think it’s a nice thing to celebrate where we come from,” Zingales said. “The food is one of the good things in Italy but you can’t just cook Italian food if you don’t have the Italian ingredients because it will taste differently.”  

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