RICHMOND TOWN — A new festival on Staten Island aims to celebrate Italy.
The October event will celebrate Italian culture with exhibits on Italian-Americans and intends to provide a fuller overview of Italian heritage than other events, Borough President James Oddo announced on Wednesday.
"Instead of the Columbus Day Parade, you are going to come to [Historic Richmond Town]," Oddo said at the announcement. "To have a much deeper, much richer appreciation of the Italian-American experience and Italian culture."
The October 12 festival, dubbed "Rome Through Richmond Town," will feature food from local chefs, fashion and live music.
The musical performances during the festival will be opened by opera singer Michael Amante and headlined by Saturday Night Live alum Joe Piscopo, who will perform "Song, Shtick and Sinatra," said music sponsor and business owner Rich Nicotra.
Until this event, Staten Island, which has the largest population of Italian-Americans in any county, was without a cultural event aside from the Columbus Day parade, State Sen. Diane Savino said.
And since many of their ancestors assimilated quickly, many Italian-Americans can't speak their ancestral language and don't know much about their heritage, Savino said, something she hopes the festival can help change.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to re-open our eyes to our own history, as well as learn something about it," Savino said.
Oddo worked with local Italian-American groups and organizations like Casa Belvedere and the Sons of Italy as well as Councilman Steven Matteo and former Borough President Ralph J. Lamberti to develop the event.
Even though he said planning is well underway, Oddo said he announced the festival so soon in advance to give the community the chance to reach out to his office and share ideas for it.
"This in fact is a work in progress," Oddo said. "We want some feedback, we want to hear from our cultural groups, we want to hear from Italian-Americans, we want to hear from Staten Islanders."