The Louisville Society of Italian Americans' La Festa is a quarter century old.
For two and half decades, society members have decorated Memory Square Park in red, white and green, while local restaurants have served up traditional Italian dishes against the backdrop of bocce ball tournaments that is Louisville's annual Italian festival.
Italian heritage or not, all are invited to celebrate in La Festa's milestone anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 11, at 801 Jefferson Ave.
"We, my family, thoroughly enjoy attending. We see people, they come from, well not all over, but from distances. It's a homecoming for Italians but it's not restricted to Italians. Everyone is welcome," said Pat Seader, the society's scholarship chair.
Twenty five summers ago, five founding members -- who appreciated the Italian heritage deeply rooted in Louisville -- saw their dream to fruition at La Festa's inaugural event.
Lifetime Louisville resident Eugene Caranci, along with his brother Lawrence Caranci, Lawrence Enrietto, Tony Delpizzo and Judy DeNovellis, created La Festa in 1988 -- just one year before launching Louisville's Italian society.
Many eateries like Blue Parrot and Papa Frank's have fed the crowds since La Festa's beginnings, while others are just beginning to join in on the fun.
Marco's Pizza and Parma Trattoria Mozzarella Bar recently joined the ranks of vendors that line the park during La Festa, helping to build the event's success.
"Last year, as our first time (at La Festa), we didn't expect to sell out, but I think we served close to 100 or 120 people," said Parma owner and general manager Emilio Perna. "Since we'd never done it before, we weren't expecting such a success."
Paulie's Italian Ice and Glacier Ice Cream will serve dessert and the Italian society will sell its pizzelles, traditional waffle cookies.
La Festa and Louisville's roots in the Italian culture are a source of pride for many.
"Being true Italian, we love being involved (with events like this). It reminds us of all the festivals in ... Italy. It makes everyone feel like we're back at home," Perna said.
Society member Don Buffo had already filled 75 of about 200 balloons with water on Monday, Aug. 5, in preparation for the water balloon contest that is open to kids and adults.
His father, lifetime Louisville resident Bill Buffo, joined the society when it was created. Bill passed away in 2011 at the age of 79, but Don said his father would be proud of La Festa's milestone.
"If he was alive today, he would be thrilled," Don said, adding that Bill never moved from the city, ultimately living three doors down from the home in which he was born, in the 700 block of Walnut Street. "He didn't get off the block."
The city has changed much since he and his brother Ron Buffo, were raised in Louisville, but tradition remains.
"They were looking to preserve and promote the Italian heritage in Louisville," Don said of the society's founding members. "At one time, you knew everyone in town -- everybody. Louisville has grown so much but I don't think that's bad, it's a plus."
Registration for the annual coed bocce tournament will start at 10 a.m. and the tournament will begin at 11 a.m. Registration is $10 per person, with prize money going to the top three teams. Contestants must be at least 18 years old to play.
There will also be a climbing wall, a bouncing obstacle course and face painting for kids.
The Louisville Society for Italian Americans award two $1,000 scholarships each year to the children or grandchildren of a society member. This year, there were no applicants, Seader said, but she's already received interest in next year's scholarship program.
La Festa will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Memory Square Park, at Spruce Street and Jefferson Avenue. For more information, visit louisvilleitalianclub.org.