Mirboo North Italian Festa – 2016

Now this one had me completely taken aback when I first heard about it, especially as I couldn’t find anything on the internet telling me what it was about (history wise). We’ve lived in Mirboo North for over four years and this is the first time that I’d heard of the Mirboo North Italian Festa, despite the fact that it’s been running for nearly 50 years. Apparently it was previously called the St Paul Festival but is now known as the Mirboo North Italian Festa. It’s basically a family festival commemorating the history of the Italian people in the region, all things Italian, and St Paul, the Patron Saint of Solarino from where many of the families now living in the region came from, so many years ago. Today, it’s morphed into a wider festival, encompassing all cultures that live in the region.

Statue of St Paul, the Patron Saint of Solarino - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Statue of St Paul, the Patron Saint of Solarino – Mirboo North Italian Festa

So when I went to the event, I discovered the history of the Festa and its association with the Italian community, as it was depicted in the Old Grain Store. At the end of this story, I’ve included large photographs of the potted history of the Italian community in the region, so that anyone interested can read things in more detail, somewhat like the Driffield Memorial story (click on the images for a larger view). Apparently, around 80% of Mirboo North’s Italian migrants came from the town of Solarino in Sicily, which is largely due to the migrant sponsorship scheme that was in operation for many years, though the history of migration (PDF file) to Australia goes back a long way. But here’s the first of that potted history to give a little more background information.

History of the Italian Community in Gippsland - Mirboo North Italian Festa

History of the Italian Community in Gippsland – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The first activity at the Festa was a public Mass, which drew a large crowd of church goers and other observers, including some from many centuries ago. The weather this day was ideal and the shade offered by the large trees in Baromi Park provided the perfect setting for the Mass. After Holy Communion, the statue of St Paul, considered the saint of good harvests amongst other things (most appropriate given the region), was carried from the alter, as has been traditionally enacted for centuries in Sicily. Though given the nature of our landscape, time of year and the locality, the traditional fireworks etc weren’t part of today’s ceremony.

Celebrating St Paul - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Celebrating St Paul – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Attending the Mass - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Attending the Mass – Mirboo North Italian Festa

On Guard, 1st Century Roman Legionnaire - Mirboo North Italian Festa

On Guard, 1st Century Roman Legionnaire – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Participants and observers of the Mass - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Participants and observers of the Mass – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Carrying the statue of St Paul - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Carrying the statue of St Paul – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Of course I had to catch up with our legionnaire and damsel, who turned out to be Robert and partner Barbara from Leongatha, who like to dress for the occasion in order to add a historical touch to the Italian Festa. Robert explained that he was representing what was a 1st Century Roman Legionnaire. It was a good reminder of the history that brought about such things as the St Paul festival and the part in history that the Roman Legionary Soldiers had to play, so many centuries past.

1st Century Roman Legionnaire - Mirboo North Italian Festa

1st Century Roman Legionnaire – Mirboo North Italian Festa

1st Century Roman Legionnaire and maiden - Mirboo North Italian Festa

1st Century Roman Legionnaire and maiden – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Now the other major part of the Italian Festa is food and festivities, and there was no shortage of vendors at Baromi Park, offering just about everything to satisfy anyone’s tastes. The crowds were huge this day, with people coming from far and wide. By midday, the crowd seemed to be in the thousands, enjoying the food, sunshine and getting ready for some of the performances later on in the day. Pretty much what you’d expect at a Roman festival, but then, maybe not.

Food and crowds - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Food and crowds – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Food and crowds - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Food and crowds – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Food and crowds - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Food and crowds – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Italian chariots were also present, showing off both old and new Italian automotive history. While the Ferraris are a good looking car, I have to say that the best car on display had to be the 1966 Fiat Abarth 695 owned by Robert (Roberto) from Melbourne and member of the Fiat Car Club. Robert has owned the Fiat for six years and completed a number of additions, on top of restoration, including adding a five speed gearbox so that the 695cc engine could lope along in a more relaxed manner on the freeways. Robert was recently offered a sizable sum for the Fiat, but has no intention of selling the car, as he gets far to much fun from it and simply loves it for what it represents. BTW, the hatch at the rear can stay open while driving to keep the engine cool, as it was never designed for Australian conditions.

1966 Fiat Abath 695 - Mirboo North Italian Festa

1966 Fiat Abath 695 – Mirboo North Italian Festa

1966 Fiat Abath 695 - Mirboo North Italian Festa

1966 Fiat Abath 695 – Mirboo North Italian Festa

1966 Fiat Abath 695 and owner Robert - Mirboo North Italian Festa

1966 Fiat Abath 695 and owner Robert – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Ferrari F355 Spider Soft Top - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Ferrari F355 Spider Soft Top – Mirboo North Italian Festa

1968 Fiat 124 AC Sport Coupe Rally Car - Mirboo North Italian Festa

1968 Fiat 124 AC Sport Coupe Rally Car – Mirboo North Italian Festa

As part of the history, there was also a small display depicting what I’m guessing is a typical family room of the day. Having arrived from overseas with my parents, at around the same time as many of those depicted in the stories, I sort of remember the decor of the 50s/60s. And I’m sure that the colourful bicycles have meaning and memory for many who left Sicily so many years ago.

A typical Italian Family Room of the 50s/60s (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

A typical Italian Family Room of the 50s/60s (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Bicycles - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Bicycles – Mirboo North Italian Festa

With the music and other things starting later in the day, I didn’t get any photographs of what unfolded, but there’s always next year, especially now that I know what to expect. And, if I covered everything at once, there’d be nothing left for next year. Anyway, here are the remainder of the photographs depicting the potted history of the arrival and settlement of the Italian migrants in the Mirboo North region.

Paolo Bordonaro arrives in Australia (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Paolo Bordonaro arrives in Australia (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Carpinteri and Giardina Families (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Carpinteri and Giardina Families (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

Tony Adamo's Story (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

Tony Adamo’s Story (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Romano Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Romano Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Germano Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Germano Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Cummaudo Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Cummaudo Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Calafiore Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Calafiore Family (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Glory Box (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

The Glory Box (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

How they travelled (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) - Mirboo North Italian Festa

How they travelled (History of the Italian Community in Gippsland) – Mirboo North Italian Festa

This was one huge event and it once again amazes me that such things happen in a small rural town that many in Melbourne don’t even know exists. Mind you, many living in Melbourne don’t know much, if anything, of this part of the state. There’s so much history, so much culture and so much to love about this part of Australia that I can’t believe how lucky we are.

6 thoughts on “Mirboo North Italian Festa – 2016

  1. Rosie Romano

    As one of the organisers of the Mirboo North Italian Festa- I just want to thank you for capturing the essence of what our day was all about. You are correct in that we have re-energised the St Paul’s Italian Festa which was slowly dying and meeting the needs of a smaller and smaller cohort of people. We wanted to re-engage the younger generations and have everyone appreciate the history, culture and traditions of our Italian ancestry.
    I am so glad you ventured into The Old Grain Store to see our historical display and read the stories of early immigrants to this area. Many of the original “founding fathers/ mothers” have passed away, so if their children don’t record some of their stories, their grandchildren may barely know their Italian heritage. So many made sacrifices and suffered hardships which in one generation changed the future of their descendants who now want for nothing.
    Your photos are magnificent! Thank you for recording my posters (as each family has now taken their own story) And thank you for focussing on our culture and traditions- not just the entertainment provided. Kind regards
    Rosie Romano

    1. Ray Post author

      Thank you Rosie. Part of why I photograph and write is to record as much of current and, if possible, past history of the region. I hope to cover next year’s event and perhaps be able to do a story on the people themselves, as I’ve done with some of the other local events.

      1. Rosie Romano

        Thank you Ray-its a great thing that you are doing. I know a person who has lots of old photos so may be an interesting person for you to speak to about the historical aspects. I would love to share your article- is there any way I can put a link on FB or elsewhere? Your photos are amazing- would I be able to use any of them when it comes time to promote next years event?

        1. Ray Post author

          Thanks again. I’m not on Facebook, but I know that it allows linking to external sites, so that shouldn’t be an issue. You can certainly use the photos for promotional work, but would appreciate if you would acknowledge the source.

          I’m very interested in the local history and always exploring new ideas and angles on which to write stories. The person with the photos might provide something new and different.

  2. Paula Calafiore

    I second what Rosie said Ray. I’m so glad I met you in the park and you asked me about the history of the Festa. You have captured what was a great day for not only the organisers but for the community of Mirboo North and surrounds. Your photos are spectacular too. Thanks for sharing. Paula Calafiore

    1. Ray Post author

      Thanks Paula. I really enjoyed the day and I might call upon you both for something I have in mind. I’m still mulling over an idea.

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