Saturday, March 14, was one of those beautiful spring days that makes folks just want to go outside and play. It also was the perfect weather for the first Dickinson Little Italy Festival. The area around Dickinson City Hall grounds looked like an old town square, with brightly decorated Italian flags, bales of hay, music, food and vendors. Local police officers directed pedestrian foot traffic in and around the area as moms, dads, grandparents and friends hurried along the streets, with kids in tow. Working the ticket booth as they cheerfully greeted festival goers, the friendly Rebecca Giamfortone and her cousin Criss Brown handed out wristbands, gave directions and offered event information.
Most of the families headed to where the food and retail vendors were set up under their canopy tents, offering up an array of delicious, mouthwatering foods made from favorite family recipes along with artistic, handmade products. Under her tent, Concetta Maceo-Sims, festival chair, whose family owns Maceo Spice & Import Co. in Galveston, and her team of helpers were busy serving up her company’s famous muffuletta, bruschetta, cannoli, antipasto and spices to the crowd waiting patiently. At the end of the row, the husband-and-wife team of Robert and Kristin Bouvier of Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream served up their delicious brand of tasty flavors of goodness to festival goers as the sweet smell of fresh-baked pizzas and sausages wafted through the air and soothing music played in the background. In the giant VIP tent upfront, families, sponsors and community leaders gathered in celebration, with food and refreshing adult beverages. Inside the common area of City Hall were displayed many artistic family trees tracing back the lineage to their Italian descendants.
Festival organizer Jacqueline Valcoviak, a descendant of Giuseppe Immitte, described the event as “a desire to restore community and to honor and celebrate all the Italian families who settled in the ‘Little Italy Colony’ of Dickinson as well as Galveston County, while also honoring St. Joseph, a saint who was highly regarded and traditionally honored by the immigrant Italians.”
Earlier that morning, the Rev. Lawrence W. Jozwiak of the Co-Cathedral of Sacred Heart lead the procession to Emmite Square, where he conducted a blessing and celebration of the Catholic feast featuring the preserved altar of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, established in Dickinson by 120 Italian families in the 1920s.
Jacqueline is involved in the preservation of Emmite Square and two of her family homes on St. Goar Street, just behind the public library on state Highway 3 in Dickinson. Her goal is to turn these historic buildings into a permanent educational exhibit honoring the Italian and Sicilian immigrants’ contributions to the economic success and culture of the community.
“I’ve been historically preserving those homes with the intention of having an interactive historic display for schoolchildren,” Valcoviak said.
Festival organizers already are busy planning this family friendly event scheduled for March 13, 2021.