When people think Florida, they conjure up images of beaches, dolphins, and theme parks. Florida has far more to offer than the typical. Regional events offer up cultural fare and traditional tastes. The southwest city of Venice will once again be the home of Florida’s Annual Italian Festival in February.

The Italian American Club of Venice offers a chance for the city to true to it’s’ heritage, and share the contributions of the Italian-American community. The Italian American club meets throughout the year, and promotes the language, food, and traditions to both the community and visitors.

Festival and carnival activities all take place under shady palms, with a beautiful view of Waterway Park. The 21st Venice Italian American Festival will begin February 19. The four-day event charges a $3 parking fee, but no admission charge to enjoy the shows and exhibits. Ride and game tickets prices vary. A special all day ride pass is available the opening day of the festival for $10, and on Saturday and Sunday for $14.

The food is definitely “the thing” during the Venice Italian Festival. While typical carnival food is available, the tantalizing smells of Italian cooking float through the air, enticing visitors to near gluttony. Some of the menu favorites include Faggioli, sausage and pepper, meatballs, Stromboli, Melanzana, calzones, Dematasi, Ravioli, and of course, spaghetti. A Budweiser portable and air-conditioned bar on-site is a very popular venue at the Italian Festival. Visitors of all ages also enjoy posing with the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses, which also appear at the festival.

An Italian heritage booth is open throughout the festival, sharing the history of the Italian-American community in Venice, Florida. Traditional Italian music and dancer performances draw large crowds to the annual event. Performers slated to appear at the Venice, Florida Italian Festival include Perfect Chords Oldies, Bandana, Two of a Kind, Tarantella Folk Dancers, Up-Town Express, and Sophisticated Swing.

The Venice, Florida Italian Festival offers ample seating in shaded tents, and dozens of food booths to serve the large crowds. A Venetian gondola, sitting against a water themed backdrop offers a free photo opportunity for visitors. The Florida MOTE Aquarium also hosts a free booth with interactive exhibits for children to enjoy.

The Venice Italian-American club works year around promoting Italian food and customs. Weekly spaghetti dinners hosted by the club assist in providing funds for the annual festival, and are open to the public. Each year funds generated from fundraisers support the group’s scholarship fund. A graduating senior from Venice High School is awarded the scholarship to be used at the college of their choice.