Hheld annually on the second Sunday of June and identified in the City of Vancouver’s list of Official Observances and Celebrations under June’s Italian Heritage Month umbrella, Italian Day on The Drive 2019 is a vibrant cultural street festival celebrating Italian culture, heritage and community. The event includes over 120 street participants, comprised of partners, vendors, community organizations and an estimated 300,000 attendees of all ages and cultures. The festival is held on Commercial Drive (The Drive), home to Little Italy, where the street is transformed into a lively 14 block festa. Since Italian Day’s return in 2010, the event today represents the largest one-day cultural street festival in Vancouver. A festive community embrace, The Drive comes alive in green, white and red with piazza-style animated zones, live music, food vendors, patios, lifestyle attractions, family fun activities and more. Italian Day On The Drive takes place on Sunday, June 9th, 2019 from 12pm to 8pm.
Live Music & Lifestyle
Sing, dance and enjoy live music from opera to jazz, classical and pop/rock throughout the day with local Italo-Canadian artists and international special guests on three main stages located in Grandview Park, 2nd Ave, as well as Piazza Moda on 3rd Avenue. The sound of music continues throughout the street with pop up performers, as well as designated DJ areas, latin dance lessons and more.
On 3rd Avenue, the Piazza Moda stage also becomes a window to fashion with runway shows in between music sets, where the atmosphere transports visitors to a public square in Italy showcasing La Dolce Vita. And – what is the love of style without classic Italian vehicles which too compliment the landscape of showcases, including Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Ducati, Vespas and vintage vehicle displays.
Besides music and dolce vita lifestyle, the festival offers fun for the whole family throughout the 14 blocks, including a Bocce Court, human foosball, food contests, children’s activity zones and more.
Food, Patios and Tasting Experiences
It wouldn’t be an Italian festa without a banquet of delicious Italian food offered up by merchants and vendors: fried Italian donuts, cannoli, pasta, wood-oven panini, meatballs, gelato, arancini, pizza, espresso-based beverages and more. The festival also includes 15 extended patios, food trucks and other ethnic favorites dished up by the Drive merchants and visiting vendors. Did someone say free samplings? Each year, select partners also serve up a taste of Italy with free cheese and salumi samplings, tempting visitors for more. And more samplings there are – with paid entry to a complete intersection dedicated to authentic Italian food products, fine wines and liquors, and gastronomic delights created in collaboration with local chefs.
Thanks to supporting sponsors, Italian Day each year gives away fabulous prizes via raffle, totalling close to $10,000, including two trips (for two) to Italy, compliments of Air Canada. Raffle tickets go on sale in March, 3 months before the event, at select merchant locations on Commercial Drive, as well as partner retail locations in East Vancouver. Raffle tickets will also be available at the event at designated locations.
Little Italy on The Drive
In the 1940s and 50s, many Italian immigrants had made their home and established businesses in the Commercial Drive area. Between the 1940s – 1980s, Commercial Drive had developed into an Italian enclave, otherwise unofficially known as Little Italy. Italo-Canadians played a key role in influencing and revitalizing The Drive’s landscape, including the introduction of street parades in the 60s, and cultural street celebrations in the 70s and early 80s – with the last Italian Day of that era being on Sunday, July 11, 1982. It was an unforgettable day on Commercial Drive, where thousands of Italo-Canadians poured onto the street in a passionate display of emotion, celebrating Italy’s win in the World Cup that same day. It was the first Italy World Cup win since the 1930s.
In 2016, Italian Day marked another important day of celebration. In recognition of over 70 years of Italian heritage, an 8 block area of Commercial Drive was officially designated as Little Italy by the Mayor and other officials, including a ribbon cutting and special visit from the Italian Ambassador to Canada.
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