Have you ever dreamed of vacationing in Italy? Taking in the culture? Buying gold in Firenze? Sharing a piece of tiramisu with someone? Sipping cappucino at a quaint sidewalk cafe?
If you can't take the time off or can't afford to travel from Laguna Niguel to Italy, there is a solution: La Dolce Vita Italian Festival. The event continues today, Saturday, Oct. 1 at 28800 El Lazo, between Alicia Parkway and Doreen (behind the ). Admission and parking are free. The hours are from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
There will be singing and dancing, booths, spaghetti eating and pizza dough throwing contests, grape stomping, street chalk art, and a tournament.
The event is the brainchild of Laguna Niguel resident Ron Perella, who sits on many committees and boards in the city.
"For the past almost 10 years, people all over Orange County have asked why we don't have an Italian festival here, followed by 'It's too far to drive to Dan Diego or L.A.' As many people in South Orange County know, I have been instrumental in supporting local charities to raise money with various types of events and venues.
"So, I said to myself, 'Self, why not have an Italian festival right here in Orange County and make it an annual signature event for the city of Laguna Niguel?"
Mark Snider, the current Laguna Niguel Lions Club president, and Bill Klamforth were also striving to build a signature event for Laguna Niguel, Perella recalled. At the same time, Al Trentini and Gisella Kaplan (an Italian native), president and vice president of the Saddleback Valley Lodge Sons of Italy respectively, wanted to have an Italian festival.
Nine months ago, the two charitable organizations combined their efforts to form the La Dolce Vita Italian Festival committee, Perella said.
"Recently, I was asked if the Italian festival was only for Italians. If they were from the Midwest or the East they would have known. Everyone looks forward to Italian festivals for the music, dancing, food and general merriment regardless of age or ethnic heritage. In fact, there are over 200 Italian festivals all over the country where Italians may have started theirs in Italian neighborhoods to pay patronage to an Italian saint in order to raise money for their church or society," Perella said.
Sponsors of the La Dolce Vita Italian Festival include the city of Laguna Niguel; Saddleback Valley Lodge Sons of Italy; and the Lions Club of Laguna Niguel.
"I'm extremely excited that it's coming to the point that it's actually happening this week," Snider said. "We've had a committee working on this for over a year."
He said the City Council credited $5,000 toward the $9,000 that was needed for security and street closures for the festival.
Snider said all of the proceeds of the festival will be split between the Lions Club and the Sons of Italy to be donated to their charities.
"The intention here is to begin a multiyear festival for the city," Snider said. "We are looking forward to thousands of attendees and have had people inquiring from as far away as Pasadena."
There will be free parking at the Chet Holifield Federal Building, as well as free transportation from the building to the boccie courts in Marina Hills.
Besides food, and entertainment, there will be several celebrities on hand, including Mark DeCarlo of the TV show Studs; Real Housewives of Orange County housewife Lynn Curtin; and chef Mark Pariano.