Christopher Columbus gives Italians reason to celebrate

Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm

 

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
October 10, 2012 

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Columbus Day Celebration. Area residents line up in the River Market area of Kansas City to celebrate Columbus Day during the 1920s. Kansas City’s Italians began celebrating Columbus Day in the 1880s and Missouri recognized it as a legal holiday in May of 1909. Columbus Day did not become a federal holiday until 1937. Early 20th Century celebrations in Kansas City included dances, dinners, parades, picnics and public speeches. Photo submitted by Northeast Community Center

For some, Christopher Columbus is simply a rhyme they learned in grade school. For the Italians in Kansas City, it’s a reason to celebrate.

“In Kansas City, we don’t have a lot of celebrations for the Italian community,” said Jody Valet, member of the American Daughters of Columbus in Historic Northeast. “It’s just a pride thing really because Columbus was Italian. Let’s face it, would we be here if he hadn’t come to America?

“I look at Columbus Day as a way to promote the positive history of the Italians in Kansas City.”

Valet stressed Columbus Day isn’t a celebration solely for Italians; it’s a day to celebrate all ethnic groups.

To celebrate that heritage, both Valet and American Sons of Columbus Board Member Michael Donnici have organized the first annual Columbus Day Social, which will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the American Sons of Columbus Hall, 2415 Independence Ave., Kansas City, Mo.

The event will kick off with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and includes pancakes, sausage and a drink.

Another highlight is the Italian Market, which will showcase local Italian businesses and their products. In addition, the market will include pictures and articles about Kansas City’s Italian heritage.

“I think a lot of the Italian heritage has been lost over the years; there’s always been a lot of clubs around and most of them have dwindled away,” said Donnici.

Even the long-established Columbus Day Parade in Kansas City fizzled around 1992, he said.

“I just wanted to bring back the heritage and show people what it was like in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s when the immigrants were just starting to come over,” Donnici said.

With older generation Italians on hand at the event, attendees will learn even more about the Italian heritage, he said.

Last week, Valet and other volunteers made 450 cannoli shells, which will be stuffed with cream the day of the event.

“There were at least five people that were born in Italy there (who volunteered). We’re talking authentic cannolis,” she said.

Attendees can also purchase homemade Italian cookies from the American Daughters of Columbus.

Other activities will include wine tastings, food provided by local merchants, an Italian auto show and raffles.

Live entertainment will feature local chef Jasper Mirabile, who will broadcast “Live from Jasper’s Kitchen”; Malena Marcase, a local dancer and singer; and the tunes of Mango Yango.

For parents, the Green Agency Farmers Insurance will provide free m.i.l.k. CDs, which allows parents to electronically identify their children. The m.i.l.k. program gives parents identification software to upload a high quality digital photograph of their child along with physical description information. The software allows parents to easily and quickly print “missing” posters and send the data to law enforcement.

College scholarships will be awarded to four Italian-American students, who include Meghan LeVota, Katelyn Dujakovich, Angela Canzonere and Sierra Morreale-Arnall.

The Columbus Day Social will also honor the late Tom Gialde as this year’s Columbian of the Year. Gialde was one of the founders of the American Sons of Columbus and graduated from Northeast High School. In 1976, the governor of Missouri appointed Gialde to serve in the Missouri Senate. Gialde also served a total of seven times as president of the American Sons of Columbus.

“People loved him,” Valet said of Gialde. “He was really positive about his heritage.”

Valet summed up the event by saying, “This event not only honors Christopher Columbus, it also honors the Italian-American community, businesses and clubs in Kansas City. While the more colorful elements of our history are entertaining, it isn’t the whole story of the Italians in Kansas City.”