Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Newport's Italianfest like family reunion

Food, fun begins Thursday

By Chris Mayhew, The Cincinnati Enquirer
And Gina Holt, Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Margie Grimm cleans the laminate on one of the thousands of photos of Newport¹s Italian families she is preparing for display at Newport¹s Italian Festival
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
NEWPORT - Zappa, Petroze, DiMuzio, Giancola, Pangallo, Barone, Gallicchio, D'Ambrosio, Marino and Peluso.

Those are among the family names that have roots in Italy and a long history in Newport.

This week, Italian flags of green, red and white have been unfurled along the streets here to help celebrate Newport's annual Italianfest, which runs Thursday through Sunday and kicks off the Ohio River city's extensive festival season.

Italianfest, held on Riverboat Row, features nearly a dozen Italian food booths, games, rides and live music.

Margie Grimm of Fort Thomas, a member of the Guidugli family, has worked on organizing the Italianfest's popular photo display booth since the festival's inception 12 years ago. This year, the booth will showcase the history of more than 40 Italian families who settled in Newport generations ago through thousands of vintage photos and replicas of passports.

"I do it to honor our Italian ancestors and our families of the present," said Grimm, 50.

She said the display started small with photos of only a few families, and grew as others were inspired to research their own family history and photo archives.

"I think the original concept of the festival was to celebrate family," Grimm said. "The photo exhibit is the part of the festival that showcases this the most."

Most of Newport's Italian population settled in the southern end of the city near St. Vincent Church in an area known as Clifton or Spaghetti Nob, said Phil Ciafardini, Newport city manager. Originally an independent town, Clifton was annexed by Newport in the early 1930s, Ciafardini said.

The approximate boundaries of the Clifton area are Monmouth Street to the east,13th Street to the north, Kentucky Drive to the south and Licking Pike to the west.

"We feel it's important that the Italian heritage be celebrated," Ciafardini said.

Ciafardini's family has lived in Newport for many years, and he was raised on Spaghetti Nob.

The festival, he said, is like a family reunion to him.

The photo exhibit is always a draw for visitors.

Grimm said each family's images often show a progression of life from baby pictures and First Communion to high school graduation, marriage and funerals. That's a curious thing about Italian traditions in Campbell County: Families took photos of family members laid out in their caskets.

In many of the family histories, which accompany the photos, the families started out operating groceries or tailor shops at Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine.

"When we started this photo exhibit, I think it made people think back into their families again," Grimm said.

She said her own family, the Guiduglis, was large in number, like many other Italian families in the area.

Growing up, Grimm said, she never realized she might be different from anyone else. That is, not until second grade - when all of the students in her class were describing what their Christmas would be like.

"I thought everyone else ate ravioli at Christmas," she said.


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