A ninety-five year birthday party is a big deal.
The San Francisco Italian Athletic Club (SFIAC) is going to celebrate its 95th birthday with its annual Festa Coloniale Italiana on August 11th. This free event is also the club’s way of celebrating Ferragosto, the traditional mid-summer Italian holiday.
The Festa was originally launched five years ago to honor the SFIAC’s 90th anniversary, but it proved so popular, the club has been building on the success by repeating it every year since then.
SFIAC President Alberto Cipollina said the club lost money on it first Festa five years ago. “…but it was so well received we didn’t want to lose the energy of it,” he said.
Every year the club members have been building on their experience to manage the event more efficiently each time, but insofar as audience participation is concerned, it has always been a success.
The one-day event will spill out from within the club’s headquarters at 1630 Stockton Street, and onto facing Washington Square Park. Musical entertainment promises to enthrall on the facing Union and Filbert Streets.
On stage will be Bella Ciao (see article on page 20); the duet called Due Zighi, specializing in Neapolitan favorites; the Borelli family singers; and a lively accordion group.
The SFIAC promises, “…plenty of beer and wine, and the most mouth-watering food this side of Siena—including sausage and peppers, pasta, deep-fried calamari, meatball sandwiches and cannoli.”
Mamma Mia! Can you hear your stomach growling already?
The club’s main ballroom, transformed into an Italian piazza, will present a pizza-toss demonstration by award-winning tosser, Tony Gemignani, and the Ricco dancers will perform Italian dancing.
The club’s third floor Parkview Room overlooks the outdoor Festa Coloniale Italiana and Washington Square Park. It is there that a wine-tasting event will feature some of the area’s best wineries, including Robert Mondavi.
Elizabeth Ashcroft, an artist whose work focuses on North Beach subjects, will be among the vendors including Gioia Italian Art Products, the art of Federico Fantasy, Bruno’s Italian Red Wine Vinegar and My Italian Decor.
Besides the club itself, other sponsoring organizations include the Lucchese nel Mondo, Le Donne d’Italia—the women’s auxiliary—and of course, Lido Cantarutti’s 36th Annual Italian Film Festival. Even the Italian Cemetery in Colma will be represented, with information about their Italian language programs, Italian genealogy and dual citizenship workshops and Italian heritage tours.
President Cipollina is careful to distinguish this party from the yearly North Beach Festival which has taken place in June for the past 58 years. “It’s an event that chokes the neighborhood and draws participants from far and near.”
“That shindig,” he takes pains to point out, “does not represent the Italian ethos of North Beach—the historical Italian neighborhood of San Francisco. It’s exhibitors and sponsors—come from all over—whereas the Festa invites Northern California exhibitors and sponsors who are Italian, Italian American or North Beachiano.”
“We’re not going to bring in an exhibitor that sells tacos for instance,” he said. Other exhibitors will include Little Rich’s Italian Ice, Salute per Tutti—a Napa Valley winemaker, Frame-a-Phrase, La Copa Loca, Mask Italiana, Provident Credit Union and Vespa San Francisco.