Cultural Festival Brings Sicily To Pine

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Sicily is coming to Pine by way of a Sicilian Cultural Festival to benefit the Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library Oct. 21.

The special event, organized by Pine library patron Mario Belvedere, will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 at Rimside Grill in Pine.

Belvedere is a native of Sicily who came to the Rim Country from the East Coast last year. He is an artist and instructs Italian language and culture courses for both Gila Community College in Payson and Yavapai Community College in Prescott. He also works one-on-one with special needs students for the Payson and Pine school districts.

"I want to share the culture," he said. "When most people hear ‘Sicilian' they think of only one thing and it hurts my heart. The first school in Italy was in Sicily in Palermo in the 1100s, 300 years before the Renaissance. Shakespeare didn't invent the sonnet, Sicily did.

"Go to Sicily and you will lose your breath. The people will hold you in their arms and cover you with hospitality and kindness."

The festivities on Oct. 21 will include Sicilian food and music, a cooking demonstration, a raffle and exhibits of traditional Sicilian arts and crafts.

The menu will be catered by another son of Sicily, Gerardo Moceri of Cucina Paradiso in Payson.

Belvedere said he met Moceri the first night he and his wife, Stephanie, were in town. They went to Cucina Paradiso for dinner and when they started to leave, their car radiator exploded. With the help of Moceri and one of his employees, the Belvederes were able to return home safely and their car was repaired.

"When I asked Gerardo to help with the festival he said any time, anywhere," Belvedere said.

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The idea of hosting a Sicilian festival is something Mario Belvedere has wanted to do for the Pine library for some time.

The menu Moceri put together includes choices of arancini (deep fried rice croquettes), caponata (braised eggplant and pepper salad), polpette di pollo con salsa di pomodori all'arancia (chicken meatballs garnished with orange sauce), cotolette di pollo (breaded chicken breasts) and involtini di maiale ripiene (stuffed rolled pork loin). Dessert choices are cannoli or la cassata (sponge cake garnished with ricotta cheese and candied fruit).

Once visitors are full, they can relax and enjoy the music. "It is very rare music," Belvedere said of the recordings of Sicilian folk music he will be sharing during the festival, along with traditional Italian music and American music with Italian melodies.

"The United States is called the melting pot, but Italy was a melting pot long before," Belvedere said. "There were the Saracens, the Spanish, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Persians, the Normans, Swabia -- which is old Germany -- they were all in Italy, in Sicily. You see it in the people. Italy belongs to all of us."

The idea of hosting a Sicilian festival was something Belvedere has wanted to do for the Pine library for awhile, said Pine librarian Becky Waer.

The funds raised will be used to purchase books, DVDs and videos requested by library patrons, she said.

The Pine library has had an annual budget of only $8,000 for six years. So, money from fund-raising events such as the Sicilian Cultural Festival and Tellabration, helps go a long way, Waer said.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $7.50 for those ages 5 to 12, and those under 5 will be admitted free of charge. Only 200 tickets will be sold, Waer said.

Call (928) 476-3678 or Belvedere at (928) 476-3932.

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