It didn’t matter if they were Italian or not. Bernie Carducci wanted every guest to feel like a part of his family.
Carducci, the president of the Italian-American Society of Louisville, said he had high hopes that this year’s Jeffersonville Italian Festival — which ran from Friday to Sunday — would be the biggest yet. With each year growing, he said he hoped about 10,000 people would enjoy themselves at the event this year.
“It’s like a real Italian street festival,” Carducci said. “They like the food, without question, and they like that it’s family-focused. Look at the kids running around here — that’s what those festivals are like.”
Nestled in a blocked-off section of the street in front of Adrienne and Co., food, live music and activities for families were available.
Whether locals had a taste for fresh cannoli, manicotti, porchetta sandwiches or honest-to-goodness gelato, they could taste it at the festival and smell it from anywhere on Court Avenue.
Carducci said one of his goals with the festival was to let local Italian descendants hearken back to their childhood through the nature of the festival, but also through the food.
He said the society was very selective in who they invited to feed their guests, but some Italian favorites that were otherwise unavailable in the area were made especially for the festival.
Gene Sartini, Our Lady of Providence’s celebrated former football coach, sat down to enjoy some of the food and joined the band in singing “Beer Barrel Polka,” which he said was an old song he grew up singing in the Italian and Polish communities around Hammond, Ind. when he was a boy.
He said growing up as an Italian kid in the Midwest, it wasn’t often he got to witness a festival like the one he attended Saturday. But he said seeing everything that was going on reminded him of a family trip to Sugar Notch, Penn., and an Italian Festival they attended there.
“I used to go to Pennsylvania with my mom to visit my aunt,” Sartini said. “My mom used to go to this big Italian music hall and sing Italian opera songs. But this is like the festival we went to when I was really young.”
Though the festival featured a Beautiful Bambino Contest, a spaghetti-eating contest and live music with Italian favorites, those in attendance probably followed their nose to see what there was to eat.
Adrienne Holland, owner of Adrienne and Co., said her restaurant offered everyone at the festival zeppole, a deep-fried dough ball that Carducci said is hard to find in the area.
Holland said the restaurants that served food weren’t just serving Italian last weekend, but people could order many of the dishes they made on a daily basis.
“They especially like the festival because we offer these things in the restaurant here every day,” Holland said. “Now they have a place to go for cannoli, or homemae pasta, or anything they’d otherwise have to make at home.”
Jo Polk, 38, Jeffersonville, said she’s been to the festival for the last three years with her family. She said between the food for her and her husband and the activities for her daughters, she really enjoys coming when the event rolls around.
“We just like to do stuff in Jeffersonville,” Polk said. “There’s a lot of events for the kids, so that’s always nice for all of us.”
Carducci said he loves seeing people having a good time at the festival, but he also appreciates everything that comes together so it can happen at all.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank the city of Jeffersonville for letting us do this,” Carducci said. “But we also appreciate the citizens for letting us close off their main artery for a whole weekend.”