Saturday & Sunday, Nov. 1st and 2nd @ La Quinta’s Civic Center Park. New Location, Same Great Italian Charm

By Lisa Morgan

“As an Italian American, I so appreciate what Desert Arc has done over the years in creating and growing our desert’s Italian Festival, and helping to celebrate the culture, the cuisine and everything we love about Italy,” shared Patrick Evans, of CBS Local Channel 2! Now in its fourth year, the Coachella Valley’s only Italian Festival has become so popular, a new location and an extra day are needed to facilitate the fun, food and festivities that it has become famous for.

Desert Arc, one of the valley’s largest and oldest, non-profit organizations, has provided opportunities for thousands of people with disabilities since 1959. This festival celebrates the Italian influences that have helped Desert Arc become what it is today. Vice President, Mitch Blumberg, shared how the idea came into fruition: “Executive Director, Richard Balocco, suggested to me that Desert Arc create a fall event to complement our annual Spring Golf Tournament. Both are fundraisers. Both just as importantly build and expand awareness of Desert Arc and our mission ‘to enhance the quality of life and create opportunities for people with disabilities.’ I reminded Dick that our campus property in Palm Desert was donated to Desert Arc by the Western Italian Golf Association in 1983, 31 years ago. Dick comes from100% Italian heritage as does his wife, Loretta Ferraro. With these bookends reflecting our Italian heritage and pedigree, an Italian Festival has been the perfect idea for an annual fall event here in the Valley. Many cities around the country have annual Italian Festivals. Now we do too!”

The launching of the festival in its initial year was a bit daunting, admitted Blumberg. But a few inspirational and enthusiastic people came on board early to move the idea to fruition. “We asked Michael Castelli and Chef Brian of Castelli’s Restaurant if they’d participate. They loved the idea and jumped right on board. After that, it was much easier to get everybody else to participate. It was stalwarts like them and Mario, of Mario’s Italian Restaurants, that truly helped us in our success. I remember Mario hand-made cannolis. He had a sign that said, ‘Free Cannoli, but if you like it, please put a dollar in the jar.’ At the end of the event, he handed me $2,500 cash – every single dollar they had made from their two days of work! Fantasy Springs came on board shortly after. It’s people and businesses like these who’ve been participating since the beginning, that have helped to turn this into such a success!”

Another reason for the event’s growing number of attendees can be attributed to the return of a phenomenal lineup of entertainment. One of the most special and memorable performances of the day promises to be the Desert Arc Choir singing the Italian National Anthem (in Italian) with special guest performer, Santina Pellegrino. Filippo Voltaggio, star of stage, radio, TV and film will be performing. Singer, entertainer, Paul Elia is sure to have the ladies swooning once again. You’ll also take in the vocal beauty of former Dean Martin “Golddigger”, Joyce Garro. The lovely Joey English will MC the event and even Patrick Evans, our charming, CBS Local 2 Chief Meteorologist will be on hand to sing for the crowd, and say, “I told you so” in response to comments regarding the fabulous weather (so far it has been perfect, every year). New to the event will be Coachella Valley Music Award winners, Machin’, happy and energetic “Pied Pipers” of Spanglish Jive, Latin, Gypsy and Reggae.


The fabulous food venders include:
Ciro’s Restorante
E & E Pel’s
European Desserts
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
Fisherman’s Market & Grill
Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery
Funnel Frenzy
Gourmet Delights
Le Donne Cucina Italiana
Livreri’s Bella Napoli
Mario’s Italian Café
Papa Cantella’s Sausages
Pasquini Coffee
Pizzeria Villagio
Red Leopard Tea & Italian Ice
The Real Italian Deli / Il Corso
S. Pellegrino-The Biscotti Lady

Merchandise and informational vendors at your disposal will be:
AcQPoint Wellness Center
Blest Blondies
Crystal Chrysler Fiat
Desert Recreation District
Festival Merchandise
Festival Photo Booth
Italian Children’s Market
JFK Memorial Hospital
Loretta Ferraro Luxury Real Estate
Mary Kay Cosmetics
Sognitalia Imports
Sopratutto Per Voi (Especially For You)
Turfstore Direct
Verengo Solar
Welk Resorts
Wyndham Vacation Resorts

If you’re feeling especially hungry AND competitive, be sure to sign up for the annual Meatball Dash and their Spaghetti Eating Contest! If stuffing your face for prizes isn’t your cup of Pellegrino, never fear. The Family Fun Zone will entertain you with face painting, Buckets O’ Fun and a special Italian-themed puppet show. You can even create your own Venetian mask. There is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy, and you can feel especially good knowing that the proceeds benefit an organization that has provided so much for so many in our community for more than 5 decades.

So come, “Mangia, bevi e si felice” or “Eat, drink and be merry” at the La Quinta Civic Center Park. The celebration starts at 11 am both Saturday and Sunday, and goes until 5 pm. General admission is $10, but kids 10 and under are free. VIP tickets are also available. Your VIP ticket provides preferred parking and preferred seating along with a few other little surprises for only $30. For tickets and more information call Desert Arc at (760) 346-1611 or visit them at

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