Celebrating heritage at Swiss Italian Festa

ITALIAN BORN: Swiss Italian Festa performer Mara Ripani will perform Italian songs during the Swiss Italian Festa. Picture: Dylan Burns
ITALIAN BORN: Swiss Italian Festa performer Mara Ripani will perform Italian songs during the Swiss Italian Festa. Picture: Dylan Burns

Hepburn Springs is celebrating the region’s Swiss Italian heritage this week. 

The Swiss Italian Festa program kicked of its 25th year of celebrations on Wednesday. 

For Italian woman Mara Ripani, performing in the festival has helped re-ignite her passion for her Italian heritage. Ms Ripani’s family first moved to Australia from Italy when she was nine years old.

She moved to Blampied two years ago from Melbourne. 

“The moment I arrived and saw the Swiss Italian Festival was on I knocked on Lavandula’s door and said ‘can I come and sing and make polenta at your festival’,” Ms Ripani said. 

“I was writing a post recently about how exciting it is for me to celebrate my culture and history and how coming here has really invigorated that part of my life.”

Swiss Italian Festa director Rebecca Anderson said Swiss Italian history was unique to the region. 

“The festival takes you to a time where Swiss Italian culture was initially introduced and people got to taste pasta for the first time here, they got to see how grapes could be grown the first time here. It’s a celebration of that,” Ms Anderson said. 

Swiss and Italians first settled in the region during the 1850s. The Old Macaroni Factory in Hepburn Springs is the oldest Italian building in Australia, according to the festival website. 

Ms Ripani said celebrating history can give meaning to the present day.

“I think what can get lost if you don’t celebrate history is that the next generation can really lose track of the meaning that created the present,” she said. 

“A lot of those stories of people who came are the same stories that are being repeated now – of people looking for a better quality of life and coming from places that are really challenging and difficult.”

The Swiss Italian Festa runs until Sunday. Visit http://swissitalianfesta.com/ for the full festival schedule including performances, story telling, art, history walks and food. Highlights include a full family festival day on Saturday and lantern parade and fireworks on Sunday evening.