Festa to mark statue centennial

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A century ago Walla Walla's Italian community dedicated a statue of Christopher Columbus at the County Courthouse.

"In reading some of the old dockets, there were some 3,000 in attendance in 1911," said John Hopkins, Italian Heritage Association president.

This year the association will again rally around the statue as part of its annual Festa weekend, to be held Saturday and Sunday. The Festa also includes music, dancing, contests and dinner in the Community Building at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds.

The ceremony at the statue will include the Touchet High School Band, Knights of Columbus, local dignitaries and master of ceremonies Roy Elia, said Hopkins.

In honoring the donors of the Italian explorer's statue a century ago, Hopkins said, you're honoring people of today, many of whom have descendants in the community.

"I've taken a photograph of the back of the statue and made that into placemats for the dinner," he said.

After the dedication at the courthouse, the event continues in the Pavilion rotunda at the fairgrounds. Exhibits include historic photographs of people and past Festas. The Italian Heritage Dancers will perform, and a sausage booth and bocce ball court will be set up. Grape stomps will be held Sunday. Contest winners for the best pasta sauce and best biscotti will be announced on Sunday.

The Italian dinner Saturday evening will be prepared by Barbara Buttice and the Walla Walla High School Culinary Class. Music will be provided by the Bob Deccio and Al Maletta Jr. Band, including Emilio Guglielmelli and Cathy Arralde.

"It's wonderful to celebrate our heritage," Hopkins said. "Kids today don't see what we saw growing up. It's a way to bring this back to them. Once in awhile you can catch a grandmother that still speaks Italian."

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