Houston's tribute to all things Italian is coming! Festa Italiana will be at The University of St. Thomas (3800 Montrose) October 16-18.
For the past several years they've had Festa Itialiana at the Farm and Ranch Club at Bear Creek Park, not the greatest place for a festival of this nature (maybe a rodeo), but it was a place for Italians to get together and party and it was close to my home which made it awfully convenient. I have to give the Farm and Ranch Club props because they did have plenty of parking. For a while they did have the Italian Festival downtown in front of City Hall which most people (not including myself) think was the best place to have it. It did bring in the crowds, that's for sure, but it didn't' have that Italian feel. It was just a big party where you could get some good chicken marsala over a bed of orzo from Piatto's restaurant (now that was some good stuff). Unfortunately, 9/11 happened and not only did the world change as we know it, it brought attendance to a festival in a downtown of any major city to record lows. Festa Italiana suffered greatly. My favorite place they've had the festival is when it was at St. Anne's Church on the corner of Westheimer and Shepherd. The architecture was very Roman and you felt like you were in Italy. My fondest memories are from those days (the wine, the women...). Before then and before my days at the Italian Festival (I've been going for 19 years now) they held it behind Sacred Heart Hall from 1978-1990.
This year we head to the University of St. Thomas and start a new era of Festa Italiana memories. Here's the details. The festival runs three days from Friday October 16th through Sunday the 18th. All three days the gates open at 11am. Here's a tip, if you get in the gates before 4pm Friday, admission is free! So, get there early. Friday and Saturday the gates close at 10pm (that's way to early) and Sunday the gates close at 6pm. How much does it cost? Kids 12 and under get in free and everybody else is only $6.00.
Let's talk parking. Now there are plenty of places to park for free if you can find them, just make sure you don't park in a tow-away-zone. But for those who want to make sure that won't happen, you can park in the Moran Center Parking Garage for just $2.00 (save some money because you pay when you leave). My guess is that garage will fill pretty quickly.
So, what can you expect at this years festival? Plenty! Let's see, there's a grape stomping contest on Saturday, a sidewalk art contest, a bocce ball tournament, pasta eating contest and the Italian-American Idol Competition! There will be three stages this year, the entertainment stage, the educational stage and the epicurean stage (which is educational as well). Let's not forget the kids. There will be marionette puppet shows, a petting zoo, pony rides, those inflatable slides and moonwalks you see at birthday parties and a rock climbing wall.
There will be plenty of food from local restaurants (and it will all be good), pastries, wine, beer and arts and crafts from local artisans as well as native Italians. There will be something for everyone in the family.
Of course if you need more information, you can go to their website Festa Italiana and you can get all the details I'm not willing to expand on here or just click on the links above.
It's going to be a great weekend of fun, family and frivolity and the beginning of a new chapter in Italian Festival history in Houston. The location is centralized and should bring in more patrons, so it will be crowded, weather permitting. I hope the weather holds up because I won't be able to take my wife's complaints about her hair and the humidity (I'll be sleeping in the dog house tonight). If you're going, make sure you look me up and say hello. I'll just be wandering around with my brother-in-laws checking out the sights!
See you there!