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Columbus Day Parade, Italian Food Fest today

By Staff | Oct 11, 2008

The Columbus Day Parade is returning for another year of celebrating Italian Heritage, but this time with a new bonus.

The Sons of Italy, Charles J. Bonaparte Lodge #2504, decided this year they wanted to add a food festival to the long-time Cape event.

“Our parade usually had nothing attached to it. People would come to the parade and then go home,” said event organizer Linda Biondi last week. “But we have always talked about having an Italian food fest.”

The Community Redevelopment Agency worked closely with organizers developing the newly minted food fest. Marketing Director Helen Ramey said the CRA has been involved “since its inception”.

“We’ve been working closely with the Sons of Italy,” Ramey said. “We’re sponsoring the headline entertainment for the evening, and it’s going to be fabulous.”

The inclusion of live entertainment is another added edition for this year’s festivities, featuring the musical stylings of The Rat Pack Now — a tribute group to Old Blue Eyes and the gang.

They’ll be headlining the event, along with DJ Z-Bop Unlimited, plus face painting, clowns, and a rock climbing wall for the kids.

It will all lend itself to the block party atmosphere, which will be invading Big John’s along Southeast 47th Terrace starting at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The parade kicks off at 5 p.m., which will give people a chance to get an initial glance at the food festival, then pick a choice spot along Southeast 47th Terrace to watch the parade.

“If they want a good spot, be there no later than 4:30,” Biondi warned last week. “They can come, grab a drink, watch the parade, and come back for the festival.”

The parade’s Grand Marshall will be B 103.9 DJ Drew Steele, who has strong ties to the Italian American community in Southwest Florida.

Steele’s — whose real last name is Sessa — was on cloud nine as of Friday afternoon, welcoming his first child into the world.

“It’s been quite a week,” Steele said. “You can see how God and the Italians work together.”

His new son, named Giovanni, is the newest addition to the long line of family ties throughout the Cape and Fort Myers.

His grandfather on his mother’s side, Frank D’anna, came to the United States via Ellis Island, settling in New York before arriving in the Cape.

And on his father’s side. grandparents Pasquale and Josephine Sessa, originally from Naples, Italy, moved to Cape Coral in 1986, also through New York.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the waterways. Its like the Venice of the United States,” Steele said his grandparent’s attraction to the Cape. “In that way its so attractive. There’s an allure there that’s still there now.”

Its been quite a week for Steele, who gets to cap things off with seeing old friends, meeting new ones, eating great food, and of course, being Grand Marshall.

“There’s something about talking with other Italians; the fellowship, the stories,” Steele said. “That’s what its all about. People have to experience it, they have to be part of it and understand it. It’s really special.”