It is probably pretty obvious by my last name that I have Italian roots, so it may not be a surprise to find out I spent a day at the Festival Italiano this July. This weekend long event celebrates Italian Heritage in Guelph and is a Summer classic for locals as well as people from surrounding areas. It lands nicely between Canada Day Festivities and the beginning of Hillside Festival.
It takes place in one of the most densely Italian populated areas of the City- the Ward is located in central Guelph close to the Speed River and is minutes from the down town core. This neighborhood has old school charm. The streets are lined with post war time style homes, 1.5 storey and bungalow layouts that are surrounded by mature trees. It is not uncommon to see red roses, cast iron railings and people sitting out on their porches enjoying a morning coffee. The Italian Canadian Club is at the heart of the Ward and is the epicenter of this Festival, their staff works tirelessly for days preparing food and organizing the events. Morris Street is shut down for these three days of Green, White and Red madness.
BUT you don’t have to be Italian to participate. There are tons of rides for children, games to be played and prizes to be won. There is also live music, dancing and the ever so popular beer tent. A highlight for me is always the food- specifically the chicken Parmesan… but you could also try other classic Italian dishes. I had a sauce stain on my shirt within minutes of arriving, which is typical if you know me at all. I do have to say though, the two biggest events that popularize this Festival are the Grease Pole and the Cheese Rolling Competition. This year none of the three teams made it to the top of the 30 ft greased pole, but it was entertaining for the crowd and their efforts did not go unappreciated. Start training and sign up to participate for next year!