By Lisa Morgan

Mario Batali, the famous Italian, chef and television personality says, “There are two kinds of people in the world:  Those who are Italian and those who want to be Italian.”  Lucky for all of us, Desert Arc, the amazing organization that has provided opportunities for thousands of people with disabilities since 1959, is now providing the opportunity for all of us to be Italian for a day at the Desert Arc 2nd Annual Italian Festival.  This event celebrates Italian influences that have helped Desert Arc become what it is today.

According to Mitch Blumberg, Desert Arc’s Deputy Executive Director, it was a conversation a year ago, last spring that inspired this successful festival idea.  “Director Richard Balocco suggested to me that Desert Arc create a fall event to complement our annual Spring Golf Tournament,” said Blumberg. “Both are fundraisers but 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, almost 30 years ago.  Dick has 100% Italian heritage as does his wife, Loretta Ferraro.  With these bookends reflecting our Italian heritage and pedigree, an Italian Festival is a perfect idea for a new annual event in November in the Valley.  Many cities around the country have annual Italian Festivals.  Now we do too!”

Following the success of last year’s event that drew an estimated 4,000, this year expects to be twice as enchanting with even more food and entertainment arranged for a festive day outdoors in our now heavenly, Coachella Valley weather.


Twenty one food vendors will fill the air with their mouthwatering aromas.  They include:

Gourmet Delights (Avanti–Olive Oils and Vinegars)        Gourmet Delights (Avanti–Gelato)
Mario’s Italian Cafe                                                                        Castelli’s Ristorante
D’Carlo’s Italian Café                                                                     E & E Pel’s Italian Ices
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino                                                 Fisherman’s Market
Frankie’s Old World Biscotti                                                      Krazy Kettle Corn
Le Donne Cucina Italiani                                                            Mama Liveri’s
Migliori Gourmet Foods                                                             Pinzimini at Westin Mission Hills Resort
Pizzeria Villagio Italian Kitchen                                            Pellegrino Biscotti Italiani
Renova – O Solar Mio                                                                 The Old Spaghetti Factory
Desert Arc Kitchen Services                                                    Piero’s Pizza Vino
Yogurt at Its Best

The entertainment lineup is phenomenal as well.  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 just as he did last year.  You’ll also take in the vocal beauty of former Dean Martin “Golddigger”, Joyce Garro, who will also be the emcee for the event.  Even Patrick Evans, our charming, CBS Local 2 meteorologist will be on hand to say, “I told you so” in response to comments regarding the fabulous weather.  There will also be strolling entertainers  adding to the festival ambiance.

If you’re feeling especially hungry AND competitive, be sure to enter the cannoli eating contest at 1:00 pm or the spaghetti eating contest at 3:00 pm.  You could win a fabulous prize and unique bragging rights.  If stuffing your face for prizes isn’t your cup of Pellegrino, you can still enter for a chance to win a Barry Manilow package for two valued at $3,000 or a variety of other prizes in the $25 raffle.

To top it all off, Desert Arc will have a Family Fun Zone complete with games, face-painting, bocce ball and more!  Suffice to say, there is something for everyone to enjoy, especially 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 sii felice” or “Eat, drink and be merry” at Whitewater Park in Rancho Mirage, on Highway 111, just west of The River.  The celebration starts at 11 am and goes until 5 pm.  Free parking and shuttle service is available at The River Shopping Center.  General admission is $5, kids 10 and under are free.  For tickets and more information call Desert Arc at (760) 346-1611 or visit them at


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