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Little Italy on The Drive
In the 1940s and 50s, many Italian immigrants had made their home and established businesses in the Commercial Drive area. Between the 1940s – 1980s, Commercial Drive had developed into an Italian enclave, otherwise unofficially known as Little Italy. Italo-Canadians played a key role in influencing and revitalizing The Drive’s landscape, including the introduction of street parades in the 60s, and cultural street celebrations in the 70s and early 80s – with the last Italian Day of that era being on Sunday, July 11, 1982. It was an unforgettable day on Commercial Drive, where thousands of Italo-Canadians poured onto the street in a passionate display of emotion, celebrating Italy’s win in the World Cup that same day. It was the first Italy World Cup win since the 1930s.
In 2016, Italian Day marked another important day of celebration. In recognition of over 70 years of Italian heritage, an 8 block area of Commercial Drive was officially designated as Little Italy by the Mayor and other officials, including a ribbon cutting and special visit from the Italian Ambassador to Canada.
Two years later, in 2018, Italian Day on The Drive is identified in the City of Vancouver’s list of Official Observances and Celebrations under the umbrella of Italian Heritage Month. And in 2019, 3 years following the Little Italy official designation, the Commercial Drive BIA, in partnership with the City of Vancouver and Fortis BC, unveiled Italian heritage crosswalks in the colours green, white and red at three Little Italy intersections: 1st Avenue, Charles Street and 4th Avenue. These heritage designations and landmarks were a primary result of Italian Day’s success, the advocacy of several Italo-Canadian community leaders, and general public support.
Attractions & Features
Italian Day on The Drive presents its green, white and red colours proudly as Vancouver’s largest cultural street festival, showcasing live music, food, patios, lifestyle attractions, activities, family-fun and more.
Italian Day Raffle
Thanks to supporting sponsors, Italian Day each year gives away fabulous prizes via our raffle, totalling close to $10,000, including two trips (for two) to Italy, compliments of Air Canada. Raffle tickets will be available on Italian Day at Da Vinci International Travel raffle booth (1428 Commercial Drive), 2nd Avenue Stage, Grandview Park and Piazza Moda at 3rd Avenue.
Italian Heritage Month
June is Italian Heritage Month (IHM), and in 2018 City Council passed a motion recognizing IHM in the City’s list of official observances and celebrations. Italian Heritage Month is an opportunity to honour the history, culture, and contributions of Italian-Canadians to the City of Vancouver. It involves a month long series of events presented by various partners, including Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre, Consulate General of Italy in Vancouver, and the Italian Day Festival Society, showcasing performances, exhibitions, language and cultural initiatives, community festivals, and other events. The Italian Day Festival Society launches the cultural festivities on a grand scale with Italian Day on The Drive, the signature and largest event of Italian Heritage Month. The Vancouver Whitecaps also join in the IHM celebrations with an Italian Heritage game, honouring the many contributions made by Italo-Canadians both on and off the field.
In addition to the celebrations, Italian Heritage Month is also a time to remember the hardships faced by Italian-Canadians who struggled to immigrate to Vancouver, build their lives and businesses, and contribute to our city. Among these hardships was the internment of 44 Italians who lived in Vancouver and were taken from their families and sent to camps in the early 1940s.