The Kenner Italian Heritage Festival now in its 13th year in Rivertown and scheduled for March 28, 29, 30, 2014, will feature a display of historical memorabilia and photographs from Kenner's Italian families, Italian and local music, children's activities, genealogical research tutoring, crafts and delicious Italian food from local vendors.
The day was inspired by the rich Italian heritage and customs many Kenner residents share, such as the St. Rosalie Procession in Rivertown in September and the many St. Joseph altars in March of each year.
"The city of Kenner at one time was the center of the community for many Italian families," said Nick Congemi, retired Kenner Police Chief and Chairman/Founder of the event. "Since that time, those families have grown; some have moved away and not returned to the culture and city they were raised in. We want to create a positive, community festival similar to a family reunion where people come to meet and enjoy each other's company at least once a year."
The area has historically been associated with Italians who were successful farmers and hard workers in many professions. Congemi's uncle, Angelo Arnone, settled in Independence, Louisiana as did many other Italians, and recalled rail cars full of produce being shipped from Independence and Kenner to stores throughout the country.
"They brought a rich culture and served in every capacity within the community, from repairing shoes to producing the foods that we ate, which really distinguished this area," Congemi said. "This area fed the nation when there was not irrigation in places like Florida and California."
Because times have changed and families don't stay as close as they once were, Congemi said people tend to forget their ancestors' sacrifices, such as leaving their homeland to work at sugar plantations in Louisiana for fifty cents a day. The Kenner Italian Heritage Festival will pay tribute to their accomplishments by celebrating their culture and the specific contributions they brought to the community as a whole.