Santa Lucia Festival helps revitalize Omaha’s Little Italy

Omaha's Little Italy is celebrating night two of its annual Santa Lucia Festival.
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 7:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha’s Little Italy is celebrating its annual Santa Lucia Festival.

This is the second year the annual festival is back in Little Italy. Some residents are hopeful the festival will breathe new life into the community.

Little Italy is the historic home to Omaha’s Italian community. It was the settling spot for Sicilian immigrants, Union Pacific Railroad workers and a hub for bootlegging during Prohibition.

Marianne Mangiameli says her family has lived in Little Italy for generations. She can barely talk about it without getting choked up. When asked what Little Italy means to her, Mangiameli said, “Everything.”

Over time, Omaha has made room for the new, leaving fewer remnants of the once distinct ethnic neighborhood. Scattered across the neighborhood now are signs that the cherished culture might be fading.

“With all the progress that is going on down here, I guess it’s not the same as it was 100 years ago,” said Todd Procopio, President of the Santa Lucia Committee.

The Santa Lucia Festival might give it a big boost. The annual festival is back in Little Italy for the second year in a row, after years of being held elsewhere.

“This is where the roots are and we were so thankful that we were able to bring the festival back here, so that does help a little. We’ve got a lot of people that come in from out of town just for the week. We have reunions down here. It’s all about family.”

“Everybody’s happy,” Mangiameli said. “All of us old-timers, all of us kids whose grandparents were old-timers we’ve all been here since we were kids. We’re all back and we’re all together. It’s great and we love it.”

The festival runs through Sunday, July 24.

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