For 30 years, Delia Iannarelli has collected mementos of her Italian heritage, amassing a diverse collection that includes dated Italian currency, a wooden string pasta maker and a ceramic decorative vase traditionally known as a capo di monto.
Iannarelli’s collection was one of several on display Saturday as part of the Lackawanna Italian Heritage Celebration at the Lake Erie Italian Club, 3200 South Park Ave.
“We’re doing this to keep our Italian culture going,” said Iannarelli, a tarantella dancer with the Lake Erie Italian Dancers.
Event organizer John Andreozzi encouraged club and community members to dust off family heirlooms, photos and handmade clothing for displays in the weekend celebration of all things Italy. The dance- and music-filled festivities continue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
Pride in his heritage and a desire to carry on Italian traditions factored into Andreozzi’s decision to plan the weekend celebration, an idea he borrowed from a similar event hosted at St. Anthony Catholic Church last year. The community’s Italian population reached its height in the 1940s, predominately residing in Bethlehem Park, Ingham Avenue, Old Village and Roland Avenue, said Andreozzi, the author of a 688-page book called “The Italians of Lackawanna, NY: Steelworkers, Merchants and Gardeners.”
The celebration featured poster boards of census data dating back to the 1900s, bearing the names of early Italian families and historical write-ups of places in Italy where they came from.
“People are interested in their ethnic background,” Andreozzi said. “That’s one way of preserving it – going beyond the stereotype.”
For several who manned displays Saturday, the event was just as much of a cultural celebration as it was a forum to relate stories of departed loved ones and pay homage to mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers.
Roy Brasch, 67, laid out a table-length collection of black-and-white family photos, including the wedding photo of his mother and father. In preparation for Saturday, Brasch also came across his mother’s Lackawanna High School diploma from 1934. “It’s a good remembrance,” he said. “Me and my mom were close.”
A couple of tables down, MaryAnn Notto, 74, sat behind a table and talked about her display, which included clothing handmade by her mother, including 77-year-old nighties, a hand-knitted stole and crocheted vest.
“It just gives you a good feeling to be able to show what your mom did,” she said.
Standing over a century-old yellow tablecloth made by his grandmother and passed down from generations, Anthony Monaco, 79, was awed by his grandmother’s craftsmanship, unsure of how the image of royalty on the cloth was created.
“I don’t know how they did it, but they did it,” he said.