Traffic jams aren’t always bad news.
People must have heard how good the food was in Mirboo North last month.
Cars were literally backed up as far as the Mirboo North-Trafalgar Road turnoff, waiting to get into this year’s Mirboo North Italian Festa.
So big was the crowd, they had to park cars on the footy ground – and even that overflowed.
Eventually, people parked on the side of the road on the outskirts of town, willing to walk just to see what all the fuss was about.
As they approached Baromi Park, and got a little further in, thoughts of ‘there are a lot of people here’ surely shone through.
If there is one things Italians can do it’s cater for a crowd – even if there is more than 20,000 of them.
Yes, there would have easily been more than 20,000 people in Mirboo North for this year’s Italian festa.
Months and months of preparation culminated in a spectacular festival, that featured authentic Italian food and wine, as well as cooking demonstrations, singing, dancing, and plenty of activities for the kids.
Build it and they will come.
It was a celebration of all things Italy; put together by a dedicated team of volunteers.
Just how they managed to organise an event that sees the town of Mirboo North go from a population of 2500 people to a figure eight times that was truly remarkable.
Historically speaking, the day holds great significance, as it is used to celebrate St Paul.
St Paul is the patron Saint of Solarino in Sicily, the hometown of a group of Italian immigrants who made their way to Mirboo North half-a-century ago.
St Paul’s statue was shipped to Australia at the time, and proudly took pride-of-place in Baromi Park on Sunday.
Mass was held at 10am, before a procession with the statue, leading to the official opening of the festival.
Festival volunteers were on deck from dawn, frantically coordinating dozens of stallholders in readiness for the rush.
The rush didn’t let up.
Lines for woodfired pizza, pasta varieties, and perfectly handcrafted bread just kept going and going.
Those with a sweet tooth were in for a treat, as all the favourites were there as well.
On the dancefloor, attendees kicked-up their heels, and heard from acts like Siesta Cartel, and saw internationally acclaimed group, The Flag Throwers, wow the crowd with an incredible aerobatic display.
For a bit of fun, there was a spaghetti eating contest, and a grape stomping one, while Roman soldiers walked the grounds, making sure everything was in order.
Festa organiser Rosie Romano was understandably emotional when speaking to Traf News.
When a group of local women decided to reinvigorate the festival in 2016, it is unlikely any of them ever thought in their wildest dreams they would one day welcome a crowd of more than 20,000.
“We would have been happy to have 1000 people at an event,” Ms Romano said.
“It’s been an incredible amount of work from our team.
“We’ve got a small team of 10 women, we are not professionals, we are just a group of people who love Italy and love Italian culture.
“For this day to be what it is, is really emotional. We’re so proud, the people in the town have been amazing.
“To me, it’s about families being able to gather and celebrate as a family, at a free event, where there is something for everybody.
“It’s really heart-warming.
“It all comes together, the unity that happens, the engagement, the pride in the town, there are a whole lot of things that blossom.”
If you are wondering just how long it takes to organise an event of this magnitude, Ms Romano provided the following insight.
“Probably at least a good six months, the last two months have been really intense,” she said.
“Because it happens just after Christmas and everything shuts down, we have to be prepared by the end of November.
“We have most things in place, then the last few weeks are quite frantic.”
While the Mirboo North Italian Festa was certainly memorable, one important fact needs to be remembered: Mirboo North isn’t actually in Baw Baw Shire.
If any councillors are reading this, surely we can get something similar going here?
If any Commonwealth Games organisers are reading this, you might want to ask the Mirboo North Festa committee how to go about planning for a big-scale event in Gippsland.
- Maria Carpinteri (with flowers) held a cooking demonstration for attendees. Showing their appreciation are Ruth Rogan from the Mirboo North District Community Foundation, Maria Germano, and Victorian Farmers Federation president and Mirboo North local, Emma Germano.
- Flag Throwers captain Ivan Samori.
- People were in a very festive mood.
- The Mirboo North football ground was transformed into a carpark to accommodate the 20,000 strong crowd.
- Accordion player Carmelo Santamaria and vocalist Adam Cursio from the band Siesta Cartel, provided some great music.