By Sherri Coner
While some people dance in the street to live music and others fill their plates from more than 20 ethnic food vendors, Debbie Sutherland of Greenwood will happily stroll through the celebration, wrapped up in memories.
“First, I’ll have bruschetta and head right over to the spumoni,” Sutherland said of her favorite annual treats at the Holy Rosary Italian Festival.
“We lived behind the church when I was a little girl,” Sutherland said. “There were only Italians on the street.”
When Sutherland’s great-grandparents migrated in Oct. 1903 from Sicily, they moved to the street, joining numerous other Italian immigrant families.
Six years later, dozens of Sicilian and Calabrian neighbors, “pooled their money together and they built the church,” Sutherland said.
When the doors of Holy Rosary Catholic Church opened in 1908, Italian immigrants proudly filled the pews.
“My grandfather spoke only Italian in the house,” Sutherland said. “But outside, he spoke only English.”
To offset maintenance expenses for the beautiful historic place of worship, parishioners had a new idea in 1983 and the first Holy Rosary Italian Festival was planned.
“I always remember my mother and grandmother cooking for the festival,” Sutherland said of the homemade sauces and other Italian greats. “They cooked for days in advance. Even when my parents moved to Greenwood, we still cooked for the festival.”
Sutherland and her husband, John, never miss this event.
When their six grandchildren were younger, they were always in tow.
“We also go to mass while we are there,” she said. “John has been known to carry a lot of pizzas out of there.”
Along with wine and beer, homemade pizzas, 25 different meats, cannoli, lasagna, spaghetti and every other ethnic dish available, an inflatable American Warrior Obstacle Course is new to the fun this year.
Three popular bands will also perform.
“Every year, we are thrilled to invite the community to this exciting event that brings together the best in local entertainment, fantastic food and cultural fun,” said Holy Rosary Father C. Ryan McCarthy.
Holy Rosary Italian Festival is set for 5 to 11 p.m. on June 9 and 10 at 520 Stevens St. in Indianapolis.
Free parking is available in the Eli Lilly parking lots of East and New Jersey streets.
Admission is free.
Proceeds support the Holy Rosary Operations Fund.