of the Festival in Buffalo, NY
Italian Festival Has its Origins in the Religious Festivals
of the First Immigrants.
Many Italian immigrants to WNY settled in the Canal
District - also known as Canal Street, Dante Place, the
Triangle, the Flats, the Hooks, Five Points, and the Canal
St. Anthony of Padua Church Society was founded in 1891
as the first Italian Catholic Church in WNY. It was located
on Court Street and was accessible to the Canal District.
Lady of Mt. Carmel served the needs of the Canal District
Italian community form 1906 to 1949, since it was located
in the heart of the district.
canal district was home to celebrations that was home to
regional feast days in the villages of Italy from where
the new Americans came. Along with religious festivals,
there were parades of Italian fraternal organizations. The
churches served as the focal points for these celebrations.
Anthony's Festival on Connecticut Street
First Annual Italian Village Festival, 1976
"…for 4 long days, Connecticut Street will become
the Via Romano. There will be Italian singing, dancing,
food and games… and fruit and flowers everywhere…
We are trying to revive the old St. Anthony's tradition.
We are trying to recapture the old ways of bringing people
together," says Chuck Griffasi, chairman of the event."
Buffalo Evening News, Karen Brady, 1976
sponsors of the first annual festival included: Amici Lodge,
Holy Angels CYO, the Connecticut Village Association (Italian
Village Council) and the Connecticut Street Businessmen's
Society. Other supporters included: Nativity, Our Lady of
Loretta and St. Anthony's Churches
DiPaolo Italian Heritage Hall Expands and Relocates to Lunetta’s
Restaurant. This Year We Pay Tribute to The Connecticut
Street, St. Anthony’s Festival (1976) With the Creation
of a “Piazza.”
Mr. Griffasi’ idea of creating a shrine for the event
was to continue to honor this young Franciscan priest and
proudly exhibit Italian culture, entertainment and many
foods that would satisfy the palate. It had been decided
that a four day event would be the first Italian Village
Festival to take place on Connecticut Street, a suitable
location situated in the heart of the Italian American Community.
Mr. Graffasi was appointed Chairperson for the event including
food vendors, games of chance, rides for kids, strolling
musicians, Italian dancers and much more. These activities
would take place in the narrow, dense but friendly atmosphere.
What better location to have the main office for the festival
located at the Italian Sons & Daughters of the Amici
Lodge. Many business people, merchants, political leaders,
local catholic churches and residents joined the Graffasi/Porto
main idea was to get people to attend the four day event
and meet with one another to enjoy food, song, games, entertainment
and above all their ancestry and heritage with each other.
Because of its tremendous popularity among all ethnic groups
a move to a larger neighborhood was decided and carried
out in 1987, thus the Hertel Avenue Italian Festival was
born. The nine-member board with Judge Tom Amodeo as their
advisor began looking into making the festival one in which
the carnival image would no longer exist. This, if accomplished,
would boast the heritage and cultural identity and make
for a warmer, pleasant street gala.
Under the direction of Peter Lojacono the Italian Heritage
Hall has become one of the main features of this years July
event. Key sponsor for the Hall has been Dennis DiPaolo,
son of the late Ilio DiPaolo for whom the Hall has been
named. This year Guercio & Sons Markets and The Federation
of Italian American Societies of WNY have also joined as
sponsors and each year interest has grown for those who
have sought to find out more about their family ancestry,
who left their homeland in Italy to travel across an ocean
to America. President Carmen Palma has announced that the
Heritage Hall has been moved to Lunetta's Restaurant in
the Banquet Room and terrace at 1274 Hertel Ave. Peter,
an instructor at Hutch Tech High School, is this year's
Chairperson for the Hall. Assisting Peter is Board Member
Joe Tomasulo. The creation of the Piazza (park setting)
is this years' theme and Peter and Joe worked with Charles
Griffasi (funder of Connecticut St. Fest) in converting
Avenue Italian Heritage Festival
Italian Heritage and Food Festival is first celebrated
on Hertel Avenue in July 1988. 16 years later, we are still
gowing - and growing - strong! It has been estimated that
over 600,000 people have visited the festival in any recent
given year - making our Festival one of the Top 5 largest
street festivals in the United States today.
current Board of Directors is dedicated to continuing the
evolution of the festival - moving away from the average
“carnival” towards a true Italian Heritage Fest
- with heritage exhibits and more Italian-themed contests
Italian Heritage Festival Committee is comprised of volunteers
from three community organizations: the Hertel-North Buffalo
Business Association, the North Buffalo Community Center
(Development Corporation) and the West Side Business and
from the festival benefits the community. Profits from the
festival go back to the three sponsoring organizations who
contribute these funds to various youth programs, neighborhood
beautification and other seasonal festivities.