A festival showcasing Italy’s best – that’s what founders of the Nevada County Italian Festival sought when they started back in 2010.
This weekend, the festa brings a rich helping of Italian music, food, wine, crafts and sport to this family event from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Sunday at Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley.
Pop singer Michael Barimo performs at such festas all over the country. He loves being “connected to the audience” in a beautiful and relaxed setting, he said.
“They’re a wonderful coming-together of all kinds of people,” Barimo said before heading to Nevada County from Las Vegas. “They don’t cost much. They’ve got chairs for Grandma and areas for the kids.”
You don’t need nonna – your own Italian grandma – to appreciate the Italian lifestyle, said Stefano Woods, of the Nevada County Italian Cultural Foundation, host of this weekend’s event.
This theatrical troupe, based near Coloma, will invite children to participate in its unique, interactive performances.
“At first kids seemed a little shy,” troupe members wrote about their recent stint in Lyons County, Nev. “But a couple days into the fair, we already had built a troop of loyal little fans that kept on coming back for the circus! Oh, and for the face painting!”
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The Don Giovannis
This Napa County ensemble takes you through another century of Italian folk and popular standards. They sing to the accompaniment of a virtuoso band, including an accordion.
Bocce, grape stomp, travel
A tournament of bocce (Italian bowling) includes national champion bowlers from Nevada County, playing both days.
Anyone can join. Teams pay $140 to play; individuals pay $15 and will be placed on teams randomly. Cost includes admission.
Wear a costume for an extra prize during the grape stomp, hosted both days.
Teams of two include a stomper and a swamper.
Cost is $30, including admission.
Experience la dolce vita — the sweet life — in person. Chances to win a trip to Italy sell for $5.
Find Italian reds and whites in the wine tent. A glass and six tasting tickets costs $10; single tickets cost $1.
For reds, organizer Erin VanDyke has barbera, primitivo, Sangiovese and rosso.
Whites include sparkling prosecco, and sparkling and regular pinot grigio.
Limoncello — the festival’s signature concoction of vodka, lemonade and fresh mint – is topped with the lemon liqueur popular in southern Italy; $6. Other drinks include birra from Rome-based Peroni, $5.
This nationally acclaimed Sacramento-based band does Rat Pack covers; “Dean Martin” comes from Grass Valley.
Nevada Union grad Bob Caudle had a DJ and event business in Roseville when he won an “Idol” competition doing Dino on a cruise. He found other Rat Pack impersonators to round out a top-rated band that tours nationally. “Sammy” is Andre Williams, lead singer for MC Hammer.
Caudle returned to his home town last year and operates an office on Mill Street.
Barimo, guided by mentor and Italian opera-pop icon Andrea Bocelli, will bring high-energy reinterpretations of Italian pop and rock’n’roll.
On Friday, Barimo rehearsed with local dancers in the downtown studio of Sierra Dance Institute, at the invitation of owner George Jayne.
Among other numbers, they rehearsed Barimo’s latest work, released less than three weeks ago, the fun and frenetically metered “24000 Baci.”
“Baci” – Italian for kisses – is a redo of a 1961 hit by Adriano Celentano.
Listen for Barimo’s operatic whistling mid-song; he calls it “God’s gift.” At 15, he won the Millennium Championship of Musical Whistling in Canada, chirping “Sempre Libera,” from Verdi’s “La Traviata.” No kidding.
Manga! Cooking demos
Demonstrations of Italian cooking will showcase three simple pasta sauces: variations on pesto, a garlic-and-olive-oil sauce flavored with anchovy, and a tangy cream sauce sparked with vodka.
CIA-trained Chef Roberta DesBouillons, of Tess’ Kitchen Store, will offer her creations to the audience, served on fresh pasta provided by Bear River Pasta Co., both of Grass Valley.