Welcome back to Italian Day on the Drive!
Renaissance • Rinascimento
Renaissance • Rinascimento
The Italian Day Festival Society, a non-profit society and organizers of ‘Italian Day on The Drive’, are pleased to share Italian Day’s 2023 Renaissance on Sun, June 11th, celebrating Italian culture, heritage and community in its signature 14 block festa on Commercial Drive! After a 3 year hiatus, the festival’s return has been a monumental project, especially because its revival was highly dependent on funding and community support, more than ever. It takes a village, and with immense gratitude, we are pleased to share with you a record 44 partners and sponsors without which the Italian Day cultural and community celebration would not have been possible.
This year’s Renaissance theme is all about new beginnings, and grateful opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures of community and life, as we return to celebrate with you our Italian heritage and culture. Like the butterfly, a symbol of transformation, it is also a reminder of hope. Something we all need, and elements we seek to embrace with famiglia, amici, and comunità, served with food, wine, music, dancing, activities and more at this year’s Rinascimento.
re – ‘back again’ + naissance – ‘birth’ from Latin nascentia, from nasci ‘be born’
rebirth, revival, new beginning
rinascere – ‘to be born again’
mento forms nouns that represent the action of a related verb
Held annually on the second Sunday of June and identified in the City of Vancouver’s list of Official Observances and Celebrations under June’s Italian Heritage Month umbrella, Italian Day on The Drive is a vibrant cultural street festival celebrating Italian culture, heritage and community. The event includes over 100+ street participants, comprised of partners, vendors, community organizations – and an estimated 300,000 attendees of all ages and cultures. The festival is held on Commercial Drive (The Drive), home to Little Italy, where the street is transformed into a lively 14 block festa. Since Italian Day’s return in 2010, the event today represents the largest one day cultural street festival in Vancouver. A festive community embrace, The Drive comes alive in with piazza style animated zones, live music, food vendors, patios, lifestyle attractions, family fun activities and more.
The event serves to also honour the history and contributions of Italian immigrants who came to Vancouver with nothing but a suitcase to make a better life for their families. From food to the fine arts, architectural landscape and trades, Italo-Canadians have offered some of Italy’s well known assets in quality workmanship, dedicated work ethic, and passion for family, community and life.
Mangia Bene, Ridi Spesso, Ama Molto
Eat well, Laugh often, Love in Abundance
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.
East End Boys and Girls Club
For several years, the Italian Day Festival Society has been supporting at-risk youth by way of annual donations to East End Boys and Girls Club, a local non-profit youth leadership programs (for ages 13 – 19), founded and led by community leader and former teacher, Jimmy Crescenzo. In total we have contributed close to $20,000 via partial raffle proceeds and sponsor donations to help support skills training and mentorship programs.
Italian Day on The Drive for Courage
Coast Mental Health Foundation
In April 2020, Italian Day on The Drive for Courage was born as we watched and were inspired by Italians uniting in song from Italy’s balconies and rooftops with uplifting music in one of its first lockdowns. Instead of balconies and rooftops, in the summer of 2020, we delivered a ‘pop-up’ series of music concerts on a large moving float, while living similar restrictions here. The goal was to share messages of love, hope and courage using the universal language of music, while raising awareness on mental health. Italian Day also raised $10,000 via sponsor partnerships as a donation to the Coast Mental Health Foundation, whose fundraising event too had been cancelled as a result of the pandemic, impacting critical funding for client services at a much needed time.
Thanks to the generous donations of raffle sponsors, the 2023 Italian Day raffle will have over $11,000 of fabulous prizes to give away, including a dreamy 1st Prize provided by Vespa Metro Vancouver – a Vespa Primavera scooter – which could be yours!!
Find raffle (and Little Italy merchandise) stations at 3 locations at event: 2nd Ave, Grant Street and Grandview Park (by the Main Stage), along with street ambassadors from East Van Inc. selling tickets, and at Fontana Forni on 4th Avenue, home to the 2nd Prize wood-fire oven give-away.
Support Italian Day! Win big prizes with a high chance of winning. Only 4,000 tickets!
Raffle Draw will take place at the Main Stage at Grandview Park at 8:45pm. Good luck! In bocca al lupo!
June is Italian Heritage Month (IHM) and officially recognized in the City’s list of official observances and celebrations since 2018, when City Council passed a motion recognizing IHM.
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, the Italian Day Festival Society, Consulate General of Italy in Vancouver and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Canada – West, 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.
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 more than 30 Italian men who lived in Vancouver and were taken from their families and sent to camps in the early 1940s.
On June 8th 2022, the Mayor on behalf of the City of Vancouver officially apologized for this injustice in the presence of several of the internees’ descendants in Council Chambers. The men were incarcerated as POWs without the benefit of private council representation; and where upwards to eighteen hundred Vancouverites, classified as Enemy Aliens, were required by government legislation to report monthly to the RCMP during Canada’s war with Italy.
A sad episode in history which relates to the internment and improper monitoring of Italian people living in Vancouver who were denied due process of the law circa 1940 – 1943.
We sincerely thank the Mayor and City Council for this official apology in June of 2022.