The 17th Street Farmers’ Market will be filled with the smells of pasta, glittering jewelry and the sounds of traditional Italian music Sept. 27-28 for the 10th annual Richmond Original Italian Street Festival.
The festival began as a way to promote Italian culture in the Richmond area and an opportunity to give back to the community. Today, the festival is able to support five local charities and the VCU Italian Studies Program.
The festival has taken place at different locations around Richmond throughout the years. Beginning in Church Hill, the festival moved to the Farmers’ Market and later the Richmond International Raceway for several years. For the third year back at the Farmers’ Market, the festival organizers plan to transform Shockoe Bottom into an authentic Italian Village.
“The Trongone Band we’re featuring Saturday night, the Katz band on Sunday,” Festival chairperson Nicki Blanchard said. “We’re going to have an Italian car show and also a children’s area.”
Blanchard said the performances are all by local artists. Local restaurants and caterers will provide food and wine, and the children’s area will feature a magician and a pasta jewelry station. Blanchard said Richmond SPCA and Bandit’s Adoption and Rescue of K-9s (BARK) will also bring animals for adoption.
Cultural director of the festival Virginia Hudert will present an exhibit on Italian culture in her own separate building, near the Italian car show. The cultural section will include the “cheppo,” which is the Italian version of the Christmas tree, and festival visitors can purchase ornaments well ahead of the holiday season. Hudert said she will also present authentic Italian linens and travel guides, as well as Italian-Americans who have made an impact in the Richmond community.
“We try to have people in the cultural area who have either been to Italy, know about Italy or used to live in Italy,” Hudert said.
Hudert said Italians have experienced negative stereotypes in history, but the festival helps show how much they have impacted global society.
“Italians have contributed much to our country and the world in almost every field you can think of,” Hudert said. “We like to promote our heritage.”
Since becoming a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, the festival has made large contributions to various charities throughout Richmond. This year, the charities selected are the Reinhart House, Slow Foods, Autism Society Central VA, Ninth Dimension and Richmond Fisher House. By supporting the VCU Italian Studies Program, the festival will help provide financial aid to students studying Italian culture and heritage.
Blanchard said any festival-goer should arrive with an empty stomach and plenty of free time to explore.
“Be prepared to eat and drink,” Blanchard said. “Just listen to a lot of good entertainment and have fun.”
The festival will take place Sept. 27 and 28 at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market in Shockoe Bottom. More information about the festival, including a schedule of events, can be found at richmonditalianfestival.org