Sicilian Fest returns in June, making up for lost festival season in Tangipahoa Parish

By Jesse Brooks

INDEPENDENCE, La. (WVUE) – For two years now, the Louisiana festival season has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the return of the Independence Sicilian Heritage Festival, happening the first weekend in June, will make up for lost time, said organizer Robin Taylor Abrams.

“We know it’s going to be hotter than usual this year but we were dedicated to making sure we would not go another year without this festival as long as conditions were safe,” Abrams said.

The Independence Sicilian Heritage Festival returns on June 4-6. (Source: The Independence Sicilian Heritage Festival Facebook Page.)

The festival, which takes place in Downtown Independence along the railroad tracks and blocked off sections of Highway 51, normally takes place in March. Now that festivals in Louisiana have the green light again, visitors will be able to enjoy fine Sicilian food and entertainment through June 4-6.

“We’re going to have a new festival board in July so we felt this window of opportunity was the best time to have the fest before the new board comes in and has to plan the one for next year,” Abrams said. “It’s going to be the same fest locals are used to. We’re going to have 45 vendors, which may be our most ever.”

Abrams said that the weekend will also feature Italian dancers, live music every night, and competitions like the meatball eating contest.

“We were very disappointed when we couldn’t hold the festival last year and we didn’t know what the future would hold,” Abrams said. “We lost money but we understood we had to do what was best for our community. But this year we’ve received so much help to get back going this year.”

Abrams said that the festival has more sponsors than ever before.

“There’s a lot of excitement considering we’ve missed out on Tangipahoa Parish festivals like Oyster Fest, Tickfaw’s Italian Festival, and the Ponchatoula Strawberry Fest for so long,” Abrams said. “We’re proud to be the first festival in the parish to be able to come back.”

North Oaks Health Center is also stepping in to provide stations for hydration and cooling to help fest-goers ward off those high summer temperatures.

Preserving the Italian history of the area is an important piece of the state’s history, Abrams said. She said that many Italians that immigrants to the U.S. by landing in New Orleans eventually made their way north of Lake Pontchartrain to get in on the agriculture boom in Tangipahoa Parish.

“In the early 1900s this area was known for rich crops and Italian families develop what is now our world-famous strawberry crop here,” Abrams said. “They shipped them on the train all the way to Chicago and eventually all over the country.”

She also said that visits to the Independence Heritage museum are free and that the Liuzza family, winners of the May 15 Spaghetti Cookoff, will supply the festival spaghetti dinners for this year’s event.

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