The event was organised by the Mackay and District Italian Association Inc.
“It was certainly a success,” Carmel Baretta, president of the association, said.
“We would hardly want to change anything.”
This year, the party was colourfully decorated with bunting flags all along the stage and street, and tables decorated in red, white and green, complete with chianti bottle candleholders.
Highlight performances were made by Domenico & The Latin Mafia, a Brisbane-based piano-accordionist and accompanying band, as well as local singers Kathleen Campbell and Caroline Galea who opened the street party at 3:00 pm with a series of Italian songs.
There was also an entertaining tarantella dance group, Aspire, and an opera performance by Pavarotti & The Diva, in celebration of the great man himself.
Consul General of Italy in Queensland, Salvatore Napolitano, and President of Comites QLD & NT, Mariangela Stagnitti, were also in attendance.
“What a great couple of days spent in Mackay meeting with the Lord Mayor and members of the Italian community,” Stagnitti said.
“The Mackay District Italian Association are a group of hard working volunteers passionate of their Italian heritage.
“It was such an honour and a pleasure for me to have been there representing the Italian community together with the Consul,” she concluded.
An Italian street party isn’t complete without food, and many restaurants organised their own street party menu, such as Moss on Wood who had on offer a $12 selection of gnocchi napoletana, Italian sausage on a rustic roll, meatball sub or penne all’arrabiata.
There were also independent stalls with goodies for sale.
“The cannoli were very popular,” Baretta enthused.
“One lot sold out and the other lot had a line up, like the full length of the street!
“We also had the pasta eating competition.
“The kids loved it and the older people had faces full of spaghetti!”
For the kids, there was a new entertainment zone, which featured a cooking demonstration and Italian aprons complete with puzzle and recipe books, plus vocabulary for learning some Italian language.
According to Baretta, the Italian and Maltese community in Mackay is still strong.
In the past five or six years, there has been a new wave of young migrants to the area who are reinvigorating the community with language.
But the very first Italian who came to the district was Giovanni Barbieri.
He arrived as part of Sir John Mackay and John McCrossin’s discovery expedition in 1860.
A migrant from northern Italy, Barbieri was 27 years old when he came to Mackay and selected a piece of land.
After returning with the expedition to Lismore, however, he was unfortunately killed while felling a tree and never got to claim that land.
Nevertheless, Barbieri’s arrival instigated a chain effect of migrants, with many coming from the Veneto and Lombardy regions in northern Italy, and some from Sicily.
Two of the earliest Italian settlers were the Quadrio and Senini families, and their descendents still live in the area.
As part of this year’s street party, a historical exhibition was organised by Baretta in collaboration with award winning multimedia artist Donna Maree Robinson.
Robinson interviewed 16 Italian and Maltese people from the community, to create a film which was screened on the evening in the side wall of the City Cinema.
“I have really enjoyed interviewing the Mackay Italian/Maltese Community for this, collecting audio and capturing old photos that reflect on their memories to do with migrating to Australia and eventually Mackay,” Robinson said.
The exhibition also included 24 black and white photographs depicting life in Italy before migration and life in Mackay after migration, plus historical artefacts, all gathered under the title ‘Unless you know from whence you came’.
It’s pertinent to the Italian migrant story; unless you know where you came from, you’ll never know where you’ll end up.