Festa Italiana 2023 at Freedom Hill: Recap

Last week, Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market proudly participated in the celebration of Festa Italiana, a vibrant event that paid homage to the taste, music, and culture of old-world Italy. The festival, held at Freedom Hill County Park, spanned three delightful days and welcomed the return of former grocers, musicians, and other cherished contributors in Sterling Heights.

Guests were treated to an array of entertainment by both national and local performers, accompanied by the exquisite flavors of Italian wines and beer. The festival offered a plethora of family-friendly contests, a captivating Family Fun Zone, and a magnificent display of fireworks on Friday night. One of the festival’s highlights was the long-awaited comeback of Louis Prima Jr. & The Witnesses, along with the triumphant return of Vince & Joe’s Gourmet Market, which had regrettably missed last year’s event due to labor shortages. Their presence was felt in a dedicated food booth, showcasing a selection of proven crowd favorites.

Vince Vitale, the proud owner of Vince & Joe’s, expressed his delight at being a part of this celebration of their Italian heritage alongside numerous other esteemed Italian businesses. This year holds special significance for Vince & Joe’s as they mark their 40th anniversary.

At their food booth, Vince & Joe’s delighted festivalgoers with beloved delicacies, ranging from Italian street corn to mouthwatering Italian grinder sandwiches and refreshing watermelon slices. The lineup of entertainers included The Bronx Wanderers, a talented five-man group with a Las Vegas residency, as well as Ray Massa’s Eurorhythms, Fraser tenor Aaron Caruso, Mark Randisi performing the Sounds of Sinatra, and many others.

A spectacular fireworks display lasting 22 minutes, crafted by Ace Pyro of Manchester and sponsored by Maserati of Troy, thrilled the crowd on Friday night. Families with children flocked to the Family Fun Zone, featuring an assortment of bounce houses, a thrilling zip line, a rock-climbing wall, and more.

The festival continued its tradition of hosting unique and exciting contests, including the meatball eating competition, the beautiful baby contest, the cannoli eating contest, and the selection of a Columbus Day Queen. Festivalgoers were treated to some of the most delicious Italian dishes imaginable, including delectable spaghetti and mouthwatering pizza.

Typically drawing around 30,000 attendees over its three-day span, Festa Italiana provided ample space at Freedom Hill for visitors to relax and fully immerse themselves in the joyous festivities. Admission to the event was free, with a nominal $10 charge per vehicle. Festival hours were from 6-11 p.m. on Friday, noon-11 p.m. on Saturday, and 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sunday.

The success of Festa Italiana would not have been possible without the generous support of its sponsors. The Italian American Chamber of Commerce, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Andiamo Restaurant Group, Don Christo’s Cigar Room, Make Macomb Your Home, the Lucido Family, Carmela Specialty Foods,, Maserati of Troy, Fifth Third Bank, The Tamer Foundation, and Lipari Foods all played instrumental roles in making the festival a resounding success.

The organizers of the festival proudly shared that Festa Italiana has been enchanting attendees for almost six decades, having been hosted at various locations throughout its history. In 2022, this non-profit event raised an impressive sum of over $72,000 for charity. The funds were distributed among worthy organizations such as Conductive Education, Friends of Foster Kids, Italian American Chamber of Commerce, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, St. Louis Center, and several others.

Joe Ventimiglia, the festival chairman for the past 18 years, expressed his pride in the event, boldly declaring it as the greatest ethnic festival in Michigan. With an unwavering commitment to providing an incredible celebration, Joe and the organizers ensured that Festa Italiana remained the epitome of an exceptional Italian festival.