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Italian Fest to celebrate 15th anniversary Saturday in IM

IRON MOUNTAIN DOWNTOWN Development Authority Program Director Mindy Meyers, left, and DDA Events Coordinator Kenzie Williamsen display the special 15th anniversary wine glasses for the 15th annual Italian Fest. The event takes place from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday at the downtown stage in Iron Mountain. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain will celebrate its “Quindicesimo Anniversario della Festa Italiana” on Saturday.

For 15 years, the Iron Mountain Downtown Development Authority has hosted the annual Italian Fest to honor the region’s rich Italian heritage.

This year’s festivities kick off at noon Saturday, with the gates closing at 11 p.m. at Iron Mountain’s downtown stage. After opening comments, Mike Izzo and his son, Teddy, will sing “God Bless America.”

“They will be singing in Italian to start us off,” Iron Mountain DDA Program Director Mindy Meyers said.

Meyers said they have planned a full day of entertainment and activities for the whole family.

IRON MOUNTAIN DOWNTOWN Development Authority Program Director Mindy Meyers, left, and DDA Events Coordinator Kenzie Williamsen prepare the merchandise rack for Saturday’s Italian Fest. New this year, they will be offering “Yooper Italian” and “Quindicesimo Anniversario” T-shirts. The event takes place from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday at the downtown stage in Iron Mountain. (Terri Castelaz/Daily News photo)

“It’s going to be one big Italian ‘familia’ celebration,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

The classic duo Jan and Gino will perform from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., with operatic singer Anastasia Lee on stage from 2 to 3 p.m.

The blues band Kind of Blues will entertain the crowd from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., with the popular variety group Next Myle closing out the evening from 7 to 11 p.m.

“We have a great lineup — it’s going to be so much fun,” Meyers said.

U.P. Dance Academy is again returning for a performance at 5:30 p.m.

In addition to music, they are bringing back some traditional Italian Fest competitions.

The Grape Stomp contest begins at 3:30 p.m., with the Italian Dinner Toss at 4:40.

This year’s Noodle Kiss contest, which starts at 5:15 p.m., has been modified to go along with COVID-19 guidelines.

“We will have participants trying to slurp up a plate of oiled noodles with their hands behind their back,” DDA Events Coordinator Kenzie Williamsen, noting in the past the competition was a two-person team trying to replicate the “noodle kiss” scene from the Disney classic animated film, “Lady and the Tramp.”

“The crowd gets a kick out of watching these contests — everyone enjoys them,” Meyers said.

The DDA is working with Mountain Media House to do a photo challenge. Italian Fest-goers are encouraged to take photos on cell phones and post to social media — Facebook, Instagram or TikTok — with hashtag #yooperitalian. Mountain Media House will select their favorite from all submissions. The winner will receive a gift basket from the DDA.

“We want to see how our ‘Yooper Italians’ are celebrating their heritage at Italian Fest,” Meyers said.

Michael Loduca is coming back for a wine tasting, showcasing eight different selections made in Italy. Tickets can be purchased at the gate for $20, which includes a special 15th anniversary wine glass along with tastings from Loduca.

In addition to wine, they will have all the favorite beers, including Peroni, an Italian beer. They will also offer a variety of hard seltzers, teas and more. And new this year will be their craft beer station. “If you missed out on Brew Fest, here’s your chance to get some speciality beers,” Meyers said.

The DDA has brought back its private label wine, the Italian Fest Lambrusco. Bottles will be available for $15.

It wouldn’t be an Italian get-together without authentic cuisine. Local food vendors Crispigna’s Italian Market and Northside Noodle Company are working with Spiro’s to provide traditional dishes, along with Dulce Nulla bringing cannoli, a classic Italian pastry.

Albert Santoni of Dickinson Homes has volunteered to host a booth for Sassoferrato, Iron Mountain’s sister city in Italy. They will have a large map of Italy for attendees to pin where their family originated.

“We will have a visual to see where a lot of our Italian family come, which is another new exciting feature,” Meyers said.

A free children’s area will open from noon to 4 p.m., with bounce houses, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and a magician. “Kids can also make their own noodle necklace,” Williamsen said.

At 3 p.m., kids can compete in the Leaning Tower of Noodles contest.

A separate tent will be available for new moms for feeding, as well as taking a break away from the sun.

A host of volunteers will be on the grounds wearing “volontario della festa Italiana” gear, Williamsen said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the DDA office at 906-774-8534 or through Iron Mountain DDA Facebook page.

“We are really excited with our volunteers and we are treating them as a big family,” Meyers said.

Event sponsors include LiUNA (Laborers’ International union of North America) Local 1329, Iron Mountain Area Tourism, First National Bank & Trust, Erickson Jewelers, Northern Interstate Bank, Dickinson Homes, Slumberland Furniture, Mountain Media House and 41 Lumber.

The DDA reminds the community that the Italian Fest is its largest and longest-running fundraiser.

“All the funds raised goes right back into our downtown,” Meyers stressed.

The DDA annually provides assistance such as facade and downtown assistance program grants and hosts micro-events throughout the year like Girls Night Out and the Christmas Walk.

“This year we are introducing a Pumpkin Walk in October,” Meyers said. “That is all possible because of our large festivals in downtown Iron Mountain.”

Admission is $10 at the door, with children age 12 and younger let in for free.

As a partner with Tour de Dickinson on Saturday morning, ride participants receive free entry to Italian Fest with their race bracelet.

The DDA will have a merchandise station selling T-shirts, wine, cookbooks and more. To recognize the special anniversary, they will sell “Yooper Italian” and “Quindicesimo Anniversario” T-shirts. They will also have youth sizes available.

Anyone unable to attend the festival but would like to purchase a T-shirt can email mindy@ downtownironmountain.com.

But Meyers and Williamsen encourage coming downtown to get a sense of what this festival is all about.

“It’s so much more than just wine, there are all kinds of fun activities, great entertainment and delicious food,” Meyers said. “But really, it’s about bringing our community together — experiencing that time with each other — your ‘familia’ — and celebrating our Italian heritage we have in Upper Michigan.”

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