Fes­ti­val frames push for ‘Lit­tle Italy’

ITAL­IAN DAY: Coun. Melissa De Gen­ova has plans for Van­cou­ver to des­ig­nate stretch of Com­mer­cial Drive

The Province - - News - DAN FUMANO dfu­mano@the­p­rovince.com twit­ter.com/fumano

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of fes­ti­val go­ers packed into 13 blocks of Com­mer­cial Drive on a sunny Sun­day, and, from all re­ports no one went home hun­gry.

Van­cou­ver’s Ital­ian Day drew a crowd that or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated at 300,000 peo­ple.

The cel­e­bra­tion of all things Ital­ian in­cluded food, mu­sic, dance, food, bocce and lots more food, all sta­ples of the an­nual event.

But if some mem­bers of the lo­cal Ital­ian com­mu­nity have their way, one thing that could change by next year is the name of the stretch of Com­mer­cial that hosts the fes­ti­val.

Coun. Melissa De Gen­ova was on hand Sun­day, dis­cussing a mo­tion she for­warded last Tues­day that calls on Van­cou­ver city hall to for­mally des­ig­nate a stretch of The Drive as “Lit­tle Italy,” as it’s long been known to many.

“We’re just mak­ing some­thing of­fi­cial that’s been unof­fi­cial for years here,” De Gen­ova said Sun­day.

De Gen­ova, a first-term NPA coun­cil­lor who cel­e­brated her elec­tion win last Novem­ber with can­noli from Com­mer­cial Drive, said: “For­mally rec­og­niz­ing Lit­tle Italy is long over­due.”

De Gen­ova, whose fa­ther grew up near Com­mer­cial and has fam­ily roots in Naples, said that while the area’s de­mo­graph­ics have changed over the decades, it re­tains much Ital­ian her­itage and char­ac­ter. Her mo­tion is ex­pected to be on coun­cil’s agenda later this month.

Mayor Gre­gor Robert­son, ad­dress­ing the crowd from the stage, said: “Many of us, in Van­cou­ver, for all our lives have called this Lit­tle Italy.”

Robert­son said neigh­bour­hood plan­ning for Grand­view Wood­lands is in the “late stages,” and urged the au­di­ence to “stay in­volved” in the process “to take this neigh­bour­hood into the fu­ture.”

Domenico Vi­cari, pres­i­dent of the Van­cou­ver Cal­abria As­so­ci­a­tion, also calls the neigh­bour­hood Lit­tle Italy, though he moved years ago from Com­mer­cial Drive to North Burn­aby.

The Cal­abria As­so­ci­a­tion was one of sev­eral Ital­ian cul­tural groups serv­ing up grilled sausages on buns. When asked, each group de­clared its own re­gional spe­cialty to be the supreme sausage.

Stand­ing near the smok­ing grill, Vi­cari mopped his brow and squinted as he an­swered a ques­tion on whether a spiced pork Calabrese sal­s­ic­cia on a bun could be com­pared to a ball­park hot­dog.

“No, no, no, no no. Ab­so­lutely not. Of course not. No,” he said. “This sausage is the best of Italy, home­made.”

By early evening, Ital­ian Day ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Brunella Gau­dio said this year’s event ap­peared to have brought out the big­gest at­ten­dance ever for an Ital­ian Day on The Drive, adding: “some peo­ple are say­ing it’s not just the busiest, but also the best.”

“For­mally rec­og­niz­ing Lit­tle Italy is long over­due.” — Melissa De Gen­ova

ARLEN REDEKOP/PNG PHO­TOS

Coun. Melissa De Gen­ova, left, used Sun­day’s fes­ti­val to pro­mote her cam­paign to des­ig­nate a stretch of Com­mer­cial Drive as ‘Lit­tle Italy.’ Randy Ri­naldo, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of Ital­ian Day, dis­plays a tat­too which in­cludes a de­pic­tion of Italy’s flag. ’

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