Bocce player throwing his ball, St. Rocco's Festival, Hulberton, NY, September 5, 1999. Photo: Daniel Ward
Italian-American Traditions in Western New York
This project, submitted by the Genesee-Orleans
Regional Arts Council, offers a sampling of traditions from
Italian-American communities within a four-county region of
western New York State. These include a photo documentation of
an Italian festival; a sound recording of instrumental music;
a memoir of life in "Little Italy" in Holley, New York; and a
video documentary of Italian-American traditional
In the early 1900s, Italian immigrants, some of whom
were master stonecutters, built St. Rocco's Church in Hulberton, an
area known for its stone quarries, out of local red sandstone.
After more than a half century, the church was renovated and
reopened in 1976. The first St. Rocco's festival was held that year
to celebrate the reopening and the nation's bicentennial. Over the
years the festival has expanded and become the major fundraiser for
St. Mary's Church in Holley, New York. The festival also functions
as an unofficial reunion for many persons of Italian descent who
grew up in the area.
Among the festival's popular attractions are its
Italian cuisine, especially the
pizza fritta and the
pasta fagioli, and the
bocce tournament. Local
Italian American musicians were recorded by McClure Productions
Inc., a music performance and recording company based in Genesee,
New York, with assistance from music ethnomusicologist Karen
Canning. The musicians recorded from 1994 to 1995, playing music
that recounted the days of Italian weddings and parties, of
serenading late at night, and of informal Sunday afternoon
gatherings where Italian food, music and dancing were in abundance.
This music represents a unique piece of history in western New
York. The selections, which span the period from the late 19th
century through the mid-20th century, and include mazurkas,
waltzes, polkas, square dances and tarantellas, are played on the
accordion, guitar, banjo, and mandolin.
Roses and Garlic: A Nostalgic and
Personal Look at Life on State Street,
Holley, New York
from 1900-1941, by Michael A. Charles, documents the daily
lives of Italian-American families in this community. A copy of the
book, which is out of print, is part of the Library's collection.
This legacy project includes an excerpt describing the "evil eye"
ritual, in which evil spells are lifted. "Viva la Musica" is a
video project by Italian-American Christine Zinni, documenting
Italian folk music by the Italian-American musicians. Without the
assistance or intrusion of an outside narrator, the musicians tell
their tales of family gatherings, socializing at the barber shop,
and serenading young lovers. They also discuss how they learned to
play, and with whom they have made music.
Documentation includes a 16-page report about the
local legacy project; photographs from Saint Rocco's Italian
Festival, held in Hulberton on the banks of the Erie Canal; a CD
recording of traditional Italian-American music; a memoir of life
in "Little Italy, Holley, New York; and the documentary video "Viva
la Musica," and a copy of the master thesis about the project.
Originally submitted by: Thomas M. Reynolds, Representative (27th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.