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26th annual Italian festival highlights food and culture

26th annual Italian festival highlights food and culture

All photos courtesy of Rasheen Peacock

Hofstra celebrated its 26th annual Italian Experience Festival on Sunday, Sept. 16, bringing together different aspects of Italian culture and history. The event took place on the south side of campus and included vendors, children’s activities, a poetry reading, an Italian language lesson for kids and performances by native Italian musicians.

Millie Papazoglou, who runs a travelling jewelry company, Jewels Heaven, has been coming to this festival to sell her products for the past 10 years.

“I always come back; I just love to do it,” Papazoglou said. Her son, Xenophon Papazoglou, helped run the station throughout the day.

The younger Papazoglou said the best part of the festival was, “the atmosphere. Especially when you do a lot of these fairs, you end up doing these in [parking] lots; but here on campus, you know, it feels more relaxed. It’s a much better atmosphere.”

Lura Salm, another vendor at the festival, gave a similar answer, “It’s just the atmosphere that’s incredible.”

Salm runs a jewelry company, Artisan Appeal, along with her friend Jane Elliott. According to Elliott, the two have been coming to the festival for several years.

“The people are just so wonderful,” Salm said. “The people that buy from you, the people that work here,” Salm said. “We love Hofstra. My kids went here. It’s just a very welcoming campus, very warm.”

Students attending the festival enjoyed the experience as well. Naomi Brill, a senior psychology major, was at the festival for the second year in a row, fundraising for Hofstra’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The club runs a bounce house and charges a donation to get in.”

“It’s a great way for us to branch out and raise money from those who aren’t just Hofstra students ... and it’s cool to see the Italian culture,” Brill said.

Julia Sylvain, a freshman dance major, is of Italian descent and attended the festival for the first time.

“I really like it ... I know a lot of my ancestors are really Italian, so it reminds me of them,” Sylvain said.

“I heard some of the music. It was cool – he was singing Ed Sheeran in Italian,” Sylvain said – referring to the live performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” by Mario Labita.

Sylvain mentioned that some other enjoyable aspects of the festival were the food and a live performance by the Long Island Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra.

While there was a lot of praise for the event, veteran Italian Experience Festival attendees did have some complaints – weather being one of them, since the festival is held largely outdoors.

Linda Zaccone, who has been serving zeppoles and other desserts at the festival for the past 10 years, said she would prefer if the festival was held later in the fall or during winter – when the heat would not be as strong.

Others were disappointed that the event did not turn out more people. “We’re trying to bring Italy here for the day ... the Italian community should support us,” said Nat Carbo, a native Italian who hosts a WVOX weekend radio show called “Ciao.”

Carbo said he comes to DJ the Italian festival every year. “We have a lot of people, but we should have more ... next year I would like to see double the amount of people.”

CJ Rizzo, a graduate physical education student, was a first-time attendee at the festival this year. He thinks the low turnout could be due to a lack of advertising.

“I think the promoting could be a little better. A lot of people are coming up to us saying they didn’t really know about [the festival] until last minute ... promotions would definitely help for the future,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo, who works for Hofstra Athletics in the ticket office, helped to run a second bounce house at the festival that was sponsored by Hofstra Athletics. He described himself as “a hundred percent Italian” and said he wished he knew more about the event ahead of time so that he could have invited his relatives.

Still, he remained hopeful about the turnout for the festival. “It’s a great event,” Rizzo said. “Who doesn’t like to come out on a Sunday in nice weather in September and have a good time?”

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