Santa Lucia Festival returns to Little Italy neighborhood celebrating heritage

Since 1925 Omaha’s Italian community celebrates its heritage and welcomes all to join in the party
Everyone close to downtown can probably smell the Italian sausage cooking.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 5:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Everyone close to downtown can probably smell Italian sausage cooking, the Santa Lucia Festival kicks off Thursday evening.

Since 1925 Omaha’s Italian community celebrates its heritage and welcomes all to join in the party.

The heavy lifting going on this morning as volunteers load up the sauce for this year’s Santa Lucia Festival. Last year the festival returned to the old South Omaha neighborhood, Little Italy was once again celebrating.

“For the Italian community this is a huge event, it’s been going on for 98 years and it’s all about family the culture, food, entertainment it just brings families together,” said Todd Procopio, President of the Santa Lucia Festival committee.

A lot of work goes on to set things up in hopes to bring families back to the old neighborhood.

“I lived on 7th Street straight across absolutely straight across three blocks.”

91-year-old Joe Caniglia is the oldest member of the Santa Lucia Festival committee.

“It brings back a lot of memories and people that have moved away come back here and get reacquainted with each other relatives, and their kids and grandkids you know just get to know the background of everything its great to be back in the neighborhood that where it should be,” said Caniglia.

The arch has welcomed all who come to the festival. It was designed by Joe Chalen’s grandfather.

“He designed the arch according to what they had over in Carlentini, Sicily and so they brought their culture over here refurbished the arch and about six years ago and rewired it and everything and painted it ‚ it’s so bright people can see it from downtown and they come down here to see what’s it all about,” said Joe Chalen, Santa Lucia Festival committee.

It’s all about entertainment, family tradition and lots of food.

“We’ve got all the Italian food it’s all homemade we’ve got desserts, gelato, homemade cannoli.”

Santa Lucia Festival is a four-day event, happening near 10th and William Street in Little Italy.

It starts Thursday with an officer’s reception, the opening ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and the arch lighting ceremony is at 7:30 p.m.

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