Community shines at Navy Pier on March 5

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The Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and Istituto Italiano di Cultura put Italy’s best foot forward on March 5 during Navy’s Pier’s Neighborhoods of the World celebration.

What an appropriate name to promote all the diversity of Chicago. Our array of ethnic communities is presented for thousands of spectators who pass thru Navy Pier on any given Sunday from February thru April.

Entertainment was presented on March 5 by the IIC and the JCCIA presents the cultural displays.

For weeks prior to our day to shine, the JCCIA office was buzzing with costume fittings and other preparations. That day, volunteers from ages 8 to 87 donned authentic regional costumes and proudly represented our culture to visitors from throughout the Chicago area and beyond.

The following member organizations of the JCCIA were represented: the JCCIA Women’s Division; West Suburban Women’s Division and Young Professionals Division; the Calabresi in America Organization; Casa Italia and the Italian Cultural Center; Fra Noi; the Italian American Executives of Transportation, the Veneti Del Mondo; and our newest member organization, the National Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini.

All of the dresses in our collection have been in the JCCIA for many years with each one more beautiful than the one before it. We were a hit with the crowds at Navy Pier, with many visitors asking us to pose for pictures with them. We were all felt so excited and complimented.

Each year, a highlight of our heritage display is Marie Palello’s antique dolls in regional customs from Italy. The dolls are a fascinating lure for young and old. The assembly is carefully displayed on the tables reaching out in each direction from our large Sicilian antique cart.

This brightly decorated authentic heirloom was brought to the United States in the mid-1900s by the late Alfa Polidoro, a member of the West Suburban Women’s Division. Colorful posters and laminated photos served as a backdrop for our displays, as did flags from all the regions of Italy.

The Women’s Division offered literature about their upcoming events while the Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini gave out candy and provided information about their patroness and the many special events scheduled in honor of the 100th anniversary of her passing.

The Italian American store on wheels was busy as always. Ashley Sklavos exhibited her collection of handmade wreathes brightly decorated in red, white and green. Fra Noi sold copies of Ann Sorrentino’s cookbook, the Italian Cultural Center sold a variety of titles, and the Italian American Veterans Museum sold copies of its award-winning DVD, “5,000 Miles From Home.”

Visitors also enjoyed watching our video of the Columbus Day Parade, which Christopher Columbus (Anthony Reboletti), Queen Isabella (Ashley Sklavos) and 2016 Columbus Day Queen Jaclyn Puccini greeted all in attendance.

So many volunteers contributed to the success of the event, few more devotedly than Dean Delaly of the Knights of Columbus, Holy Family Inverness Council 11981 4th Degree. Dean so willingly stepped up to the task of packing the van with all of our paraphernalia and carting it to the Crystal Gardens, where Dean and my grandson, Tylor Serpico, set up our elaborate displays. All of our volunteers helped with take down.

Credit also goes to Nancy Cometa, Kelly Cerami, Christine D’Ambrosio, Vincenzo DeVito, Arlene Elia, Gina Gigante, Valerie Gigante, Laverne Marcheschi, Erin Menaco, Dawn Menaco, John Menaco, Lauren Menaco, Phyllis Menaco, Robert Menaco, Theresa Paterno, Rosemary Ranallo, Phyllis Schoene, Ella Serpico, Florence Sorensen, Anna Wiese, Barbara Willis, Florence Wire, William Wire and Debbie Yaccino. And a huge thank you to O’Hare Limousine for transporting 15 of our volunteers to and from Navy Pier.

The whole experience was extremely rewarding and satisfying.

About Jo Ann Serpico

Jo Ann is the executive director of the JCCIA; a member of the Casa Italia board; past president of the JCCIA, Calabresi in America and Maroons Ladies Club; past secretary of the Maroons and Italian American War Veterans Post 2 Ladies Auxiliary; and a member of the Italian American Women’s Organization. She has been honored by the Maroons, Italian American Executives of Transportation, Cook County Board President John Stroger, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Illinois Department of Public Health, Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, JCCIA Women’s Division, Order Sons of Italy in America State Grand Lodge, Sons and Daughters of Italy in America, Italian American Police Association, Comune di Campofelice di Roccella, Provincia di Palermo, Italian American Political Coalition, and Comboni Mission Center.

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One comment

  1. Theresa Cantrell

    Thank you for letting us (Italian American Store on Wheels ) join you in celebrating neighborhoods of world at Navy Pier. Everyone did a wonderful job. You all looked fantastic ,can’t wait to join you again next year.Hope to see every one around at the Italian festivals this summer.

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