From Italy to Arkansas...
Written By05 Aug 2014
It's that time of year again. As summer quickly comes to an end and August creeps in,
you know it's time for the Tontitown Grape Festival.
A Brief History
In 1895, Italian immigrants left Genoa, Italy due to high taxes, overcrowding,
food shortage, political unrest and unpopular colonial wars. They decided
to come to America to begin again.
Father Pietro Bandini had been sent to America to help these Italian immigrants.
He found a farm near Springdale, Arkansas that was selling for two or three dollars an acre.
He convinced 18 families to wait while he secured land and by March, at least 40 families had arrived.
They named the colony Tontitown for Henri De Toni, the first Italian Chief Lieutenant,
who had established the first white colony in Arkansas.
By the 1900's, August found the Italians with a harvest to celebrate with a mass
of Thanksgiving in the little Church. The immigrants sang and danced and
the women served the tastiest meals their meager provision would allow.
From this first frolic in the wood, the Tontitown Festival was born.
By the 1920's the festival had been held for approximately 25 years.
It had grown to include Holy Mass, booths, games, carnivals, dance, sometimes a pageant,
and of course the wonderful Italian food.
The festival began to draw a crowd from surrounding communities.
By 1932 they expanded it to a 3 day event and, for the first time, the festival selected it's
first queen, Albina Montegani. This was also the year that Tontitown
began serving their famous Spaghetti Dinner to the public.
Today the festival celebrates 116 years.
The week long event starts tonight at 7pm with the Grape Stomp and live entertainment.
The famous Spaghetti dinner starts on Thursday at 4:30pm continuing through Saturday.
While you're there enjoying the carnival and entertainment,
don't forget to get a cone of their famous grape ice-cream!