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     Edmonton:  Cultural Life

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Early Years

 World War I and
Interwar Period

World War II
and After

  Cultural Life


 Population Statistics


by Adriana Albi Davies, Ph.D. 

 1  |  3  |  Page 4  |  5  |  6

Another early cultural initiative was the establishment of a radio program. The first was begun by the Father's Bonelli and Ziliotto of Santa Maria Goretti Parish on the French radio station CHFA.  They were a means of making Italian music available to the community as well as news from the homeland and community messages.  Other programs included:

  • Programma Italiano, started in the mid-1950s by Franco Spinelli, Joe Bocchinfuso and Lorenzo
    Bagnariol on CHFA; discontinued after 25 years;
  • Piccola Italia, started in 1959 by Mariano Covassi on CKUA; taken over by Sab Roncucci on behalf of the Dante Alighieri Society in 1962 and retitled Panorama Italiano; taken over in 1974 by Adriano Zenari and three University students but discontinued after three monthsCKER ran Italian language radio programs in the 1980s.  Photo courtesy of Il Congresso.;
  • Radio Sera and Ciao Italia, started by Leo Sorgiovanni and for a time by Lorenzo Bagnariol, ran from 1980 to 1988 on CKER;
  • Buongiorno All'Italiana, started by Leo Sorgiovanni and which lasted from 1988 to 1994;
  • CIAO Italia started by Leopoldo Sorgiovanni continues to air every Sunday from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm on 101.9 Ethnic F.M. CKER. The program is composed as follows:

     9:00 - 9:30
    Mezz'ora Con Voi, Produced by Don Luciano Cortopassi
                      from Santa Maria Goretti Church.

    9:30 - 12:30 Ciao Italia, with music for all ages, news from Italy via satellite,
                       community interviews, community news and the Soccer Warm-
                       up show with up-to-date results, standings and commentaries of
                       the Italian Soccer Championship.

  • Italianissimo, started by Tony DeRose in 1974 and still continues, broadcast from Wetaskiwin on radio station 1441 AM.

The historians of community broadcasting history are Sabatino Roncucci and Leo Sorgiovanni, who provided the information on the above-noted initiatives.  The television program Panorama Italiano was also initiated by the Fathers of Santa Maria Goretti in 1975.  It was broadcast from Capital Cable (now Shaw TV) every Sunday evening for 30 minutes.  Producers and announcers include: Father Raniero Alessandrini, Father Augusto Feccia and Milena Alzetta, who still runs it.

Italian community influence was sometimes startling, no more so than in the issue of being able to make home-made wine.  The legislation prohibited this but this did not stop Italians from making wine.  So long as the police did not know, it was all right.  However, on occasion, old rivalries prompted anonymous calls to the police who then had to act on the information. Illustration of a grape press used in wine-making.   Courtesy of Il Congresso. In 1964 Tony Falcone was involved in changing the legislation.  A committee was created with Frank Spinelli and Lorenzo Bagnariol from Edmonton and Alberto Romano from Calgary.  They obtained signatures on a petition and asserted that the wine was not for sale but for their own use.  They succeeded in changing the legislation and by the mid-1980s there was a boom in wine-making in the city.  More than 30-50,000 cases of grapes were sold by Spinelli through the Italian Centre Shop.  Today, wine-making is a common pursuit and many specialty stores have sprung up to support; however, the Italian Centre Shop still sells the majority of grapes and materials required.  See the Il Congresso newspaper article ,January, 1987,  for information on the first home-made wine competition and the Il Congresso on the Vino Novello event at the Chateau Lake Louise (both in Italian).

Logo of the National Congress of Italian-Canadians, Edmonton District, established in 1979.The late seventies was an important period for the initiation of societies in the community.¹  In October 1973, a meeting was held in Mississauga to discuss the formation of a national council for the Italian community.  In February, 1974, the first conference was held for the National Congress of Italian-Canadians (NCIC) in Ottawa with the intention of creating a national organization that would reinforce the ties among all Italian-Canadian organizations.  They also intended to reinforce their cultural, economic and social aspirations at the national level.  Tony Cairo and Sabatino Roncucci from Edmonton represented the Italian community.  In 1978, after a meeting of Alberta Italian organizations was held in Calgary, the NCIC appeared in Alberta and was established in  Edmonton with Carlo Amodio as President.  With the establishment of the NCIC, Edmonton District, there was an attempt to integrate the societies under the Congress.  See the March 3, 1987 Il Congresso article in Italian for an overview of the NCIC, Edmonton District by Alessandro Urso.  The Executive, at this time, consisted of  Adriana Albi Davies, President, two vice-presidents, Domenico (Dick) Tomat and Maria Borelli, Secretary Anna Biasutto, and  Treasurer Mario Rizzuto.

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