Italy comes to the Cape
Cape Coral’s Annual Columbus Day Parade & Italian Food Fest held Saturday brought out tens of thousands of event-goers, and both events within the event could not have been better, said officials.
An estimated number of attendees is around 15,000, with the final tally still pending.
“It was a picture perfect day, and the parade was phenomenal,” said parade/event Chair Camille Marino.
The festivities were hosted by the Sons of Italy Charles J. Bonoparte Lodge #2504 of Cape Coral.
As expected, the grand marshall, 84-year old Edward “Buck” Kocik, was a crowd favorite. Kocik is city’s original fire chief of Cape Coral.
“In 1961 Cape Coral was a tiny but growing community in need of a fire department,” shared Linda Messina Holda, who is the public relations director for the events. “Encouraged by Gulf American Corporation on April 9, 1961, the Cape Coral Volunteer Fireman’s Association was incorporated by an act of the Florida Legislature. Their first elected chief was Edward Kocik. Kocik remained the chief for seven years, until a fire district was created and the first paid chief and paid firemen were hired by the city of Cape Coral Fire Department.”
“He said he was honored,” said Marino of his day in the literal sun. “Also, the Knights of Columbus were all dressed up and a big attraction, and many entries were big attractions. There were over 60 in the parade.”
The many Boy and Girl Scout troops were also extremely popular.
Of the Italian Food Festival, she said, “You could smell the great food blocks and blocks away.”
One of her favorite parts was the entertainment, especially young Cody Vagel, an up-and-coming performer who is only 15 years old.
“All people could say is that he has the voice of an angel,” she said.
There were several big entertainment moments, said many.
Especially the fact that headliner Ric Mango chose the fest as the place for his farewell performance.
Formerly of Jay and the Americans fame, Mango is a Cape Coral resident who splits his time here and in New York, and formally did his last stage appearance there recently, but the members of the Sons of Italy only found out last week here would be his final stage performance.
“Ric Mango is retiring from performing, and he’s been a snowbird to Cape Coral for well over 20 years,” said Holda. “He basically retired up north and was invited to sing for us by Vinnie Bruno, one of our members and emcee for the show. They were friends, and he agreed to do his very, very last show for us the Sons of Italy.”
That brought a lot of emotion from both Mango and the crowd, she said, “But he hung up pretty well.”
He did a patriotic song for the encore, and also brought the Del Prados up on stage as well.
“They sang together, they know each other from the area. He brought them up on stage to sing a tribute to the late singer Johnny Maestro, who passed away a few years ago. He (Maestro) lived here in Cape Coral quite a while, and they all knew each other from New York.”
She said she also enjoyed Cody Vagel.
“What’s interesting is we saw Cody at the beginning of his career and Ric Mango at the end.”
Of the food, she said, “The food was excellent – nobody went away hungry. I heard the vendors did well.”
“Everybody worked hard from the Sons of Italy and all of our volunteers, including the local Key Club. They were tremendous.”
Sons of Italy member Linda Biandi agreed.
“The Key Club kids were fantastic,” she said. “They help set up with the tents, pass out trash bins, cleaned up trash, whatever we needed they were there to do.”
They are members of the Cape Coral High School Key Club.
“These kids could not be more polite, hard workers, dedicated to whatever their cause. They also had a table, did face painting and taking donations for their own charity. I cannot say enough good things about these kids.”
Of the other attractions Biandi said, “The kids area was packed all day long, with a popular Fire Department booth were there was demonstrations and they gave little fire hats to kids. There was so much going on it was amazing.”