Thousands flock to Commercial Drive for annual Italian Day
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Bella weather, delizioso food and a grande variety of entertainers made this year’s Italian Day on the Drive a hit on Sunday.
The sixth edition of the annual festival saw all things red, white and green take over Commercial Drive from North Grandview to Venables as a crowd of thousands enjoyed the afternoon.
Local merchants had a busy day, with many brick-and-mortar shops and restaurants filled to capacity. Many of the Drive’s restaurants, like the Libra Room, set up tents on the street to fill even more hungry bellies.
“It was crazy, way busier than last year,” said owner Marco Mirisklavos. “I think everybody had a good year this year. Good for the community, good for the Drive, absolutely.”
In addition to the ample supply and variety of food, the arts were a major focus for this year’s event. According to Italian Day executive director Brunella Gaudio, that gave organizers the chance to partner with cultural attractions in the city, like the Rio Theatre, which just wrapped up a run of classic Italian films over the past week.
Non-Partisan Association Councillor Melissa De Genova attended the event. Last week, she introduced a council motion to designate an as-of-yet undetermined portion of Commercial Drive as Little Italy.
“It has so many economic benefits, benefits for tourism. Right now there’s no signage, it’s not designated Little Italy. It would be nice for the Italian community to have that opportunity,” she said.
De Genova acknowledged that the cultural make-up of the neighbourhood around Commercial Drive has changed significantly over the years, but said a large majority of businesses remained Italian-owned. De Genova said she is open to exploring renaming other parts of the city to reflect those areas’ ethnic heritage.