Culture & Education Committee

Culture & Education Committee Frank Perrecone Karen Cantele Bea Ricotta

UPDATE! GRIAA’s Immigration Book Will Be Available at

Festa Italiana August 4-6, 2017

GRIAA’S book, Immigration Histories of Rockford Italian Families, will be available for purchase during Festa Italiana in the cultural tent for $20.00.  Check payable to GRIAA is the preferred method of payment.

For mail orders, please send a check payable to GRIAA in the amount of $25.00 ($5.00 to cover costs associated with mailing) to GRIAA at P.O. Box 1915, Rockford, Illinois 61110-0415.  Be sure to include your complete address.  Please allow 3 to 4 weeks for delivery.

After Festa Italiana, the book will be available for purchase at Ferolie & Perrecone, Ltd., 321 W. State Street, Suite 800, Rockford, during business hours.  Checks will be the only method of payment accepted.

Culture & Education Mission

This committee’s mission is to preserve and protect our rich Italian Heritage and Culture. It achieves this by teaching the Italian Language, celebrating events as Carnevale, the Columbus Day Mass and its correlation with the Hall of Fame. The committee is very active in presenting Italian folklore, traditions, history and videos to school children throughout the area. There is E-mail form and a Comment Form on this page where students may ask questions about Italy and locate needed information. All of our events are posted on our Welcome page please check there for all upcoming GRIAA events. Lectures on various timely topics are presented as is information about genealogy and preserving our oral history. We present workshops that revive the Sicilian St. Joseph Altar “Spera” and other Italian traditional foods of the past, and classes learning the art of Palm Weaving are also offered during the Lenten season. The Italian Gallery of the Ethnic Heritage Museum also displays various themes relating to our culture. The Museum is located at 1129 South Main Street. Phone 962-7402 for further information. The Saturday and Sunday nearest December 12th St. Anthony of Padua Church becomes the center for a special Mass honoring Santa Lucia where anyone with eye maladies may receive a special blessing, and during the Christmas season one learns of the “Ceppo” and La Befana stories. By preserving these beautiful Italian traditions one develops a deeper appreciation and understanding of our heritage and culture.

GRIAA’s Genealogy Project

nanas wedding pic

“And they came to America from Italy settling in Rockford, Illinois.”


Immigration Histories of Rockford Italian Families

By Frank Perrecone

There have been several books and histories written over the years about Rockford Italian- Americans and their families. The last book I recall was written by Vincent LasCasas, entitled Non Dimenticare: Italian Immigration to Rockford 1878-1998. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when a new book is published about Rockford Italian-Americans and their families is flip to the index and see if my family is included in the book. If so, I immediately go to that page, read what is written and buy the book. Often, my late uncle Peter Perrecone, is mentioned. I have yet to find anything written about the Saporito side of my family, even though they worked hard, led good lives, and raised wonderful families with their wives. This sounds like nearly all Italian-American families that settled in Rockford. Yet, perhaps because of space limitations, these families have not received the recognition they deserve in past publications. Now, the Greater Rockford Italian American Association (GRIAA) is offering you the chance to share your family’s history in its new publication. GRIAA is reaching out to all Rockford Italian-American families. Under the guidance of Gene and Shirley Fedeli, GRIAA kicked off at Festa Italiana 2012 a four-year project entitled Immigration Histories of Rockford Italian Families. We want your family history included! Its easy to write. And our book will include your submitted photograph. Listed below this article is the “How to Guide” which provides suggestions on how to write your family’s immigration history.  We even provide examples of family histories submitted at Festa Italiana 2012 and 2013. If your family is not included in GRIAA’s book, Immigration Histories of Rockford Italian Families, it is because no one from your family submitted the required information to us.  Don’t flip to the index of our book and be disappointed that your family is not included.  Be part of Rockford Italian-American history by giving us your information.  GRIAA expects to publish its book in 2016. For further information, please contact Frank Perrecone at 815/962-2700 or

Immigration Histories of Rockford Italian Families 

A How to Guide for the Immigration History Project

Please understand it is your family history we want. You decide what to use for content. With that in mind, here are some ideas that might help you in the writing process:

  • The title can be as simple as the name of your grandparents or parents, the name of your family, or you can use an anecdote, such as Up the Hill or Life on Short Dickerman Street.
  • Start with the earliest relative that came to Rockford, whether it was 1890 or 1960. Here is a suggestion: Start with parents or grandparents, where they came from in Italy and where they settled in Rockford.
  • It can be written in the first or third person.
  • Include as many of your family members as you choose.
  • For example, you may want to include in your family history where your immigrant parents or grandparents lived in Italy, the year or approximate year they arrived in the United States and port of entry, the reason for settling in Rockford, the streets or addresses at which they resided and their jobs.  You might also want to include information about your family, memorable family stories such a living or growing up in the old neighborhood, attending St. Anthony Church or school or any other stories you want to share.
  • As you can see, you and your family already possess the information we are looking for, so there is no need to conduct extensive research.
  • GRIAA reserves the right to edit histories at our discretion.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Please submit your history using Times-New Roman, 12-point font.
  • Top and bottom margin settings must be 0.05.  Left and right margins must be 1.25.  The title of your family history can be a larger font type.
  • We would like the history kept to one page, if possible, but no more than two pages.  Please adhere strictly to margin requirements.
  • Keep in mind that we want you to submit one or two .jpg photographs.  Do not send more than 2 photographs.
  • At the end of your story, leave one line of space and add the following:

Submitted on (date) by (name of person submitting) for the Genealogy Project for Culture and Education Committee of GRIAA “Immigration Histories of Rockford Italian Families”.

  • We will put your family history and photographs on our website after we receive them.
  • See attached format instructions.
  • Do not merge .jpg photograph(s) above your history.  We will do this.

Have fun researching and sharing with your family.  We are looking forward to reading your family history.  For further information or clarification, please contact Frank Perrecone at 815/962-2700 or

Here are some additional guides that will help you with organizing your family information, writing your family’s history, and setting up Genealogy Project page.  Click on the links below to download the files.

Below are the family histories received by GRIAA.  Click on the family name to read their histories:

Sicilian Traditions ~~~Share them with us Pizza Oven in Aragona, Sicilly Benvenuti!

This my blog where I share and celebrate the small things that make my life joyful. I am first generation Italian-American. Our family comes from Sicily. Our traditions are still relevant and very much a part of our daily lives. We also appreciate and embrace the the diversity of cultures in America. We usually cook from scratch, we love our traditional dishes most but also enjoy delving into other cultures and cuisines. Welcome, click on the site below lets have some fun together.       Listed below are some of the many events that The Culture and Education Committee of GRIAA have sponsored in the past years. Italian Guest Conductor Excites Rockford with Carmina Burana

Bridging the Atlantic: Rockford to Ferentino!

The Cathedral of St. Peter School has had the privilege to learn the beautiful Italian Language through funding from the Italian Government under the Culture and Education Committee of GRIAA. This past May, the children were able to show off their Italian to the delegates from the Sister City of Ferentino, Italy. The Mayor, Dr. Piergianni Fiorletta and the other delegates where amazed at the energy and enthusiasm of the children Signora Maria Diemer who teaches Italian throughout the year, had some classes present special programs to the Italian delegation: the Kindergarten sang and danced; the First Grade shared their special thoughts through art work that they presented to the men, as well as reciting their colors and numbers in Italian; the Third Grade really surprised the delegation by singing the Italian National Anthem, called Inno Di Mameli; and the Fifth Grade had a short dramatization on sports in America and Italy. The Ferentino Sister City delegates truly enjoyed the day! Smiles in any language say so much, and they seemed to have a permanent smile while visiting each class. In fact, some of the men joined in the National Anthem, while others joined in the dramatization involving sports especially soccer or calcio the National Sport of Italy. Below, are photos that show some of the children in their activities.

The First Grade class with Mayor Fiorletta (red sweater). Signora Diemer (on the right) with the children holding up their “Ciao” art work.

Mayor Dr. Piergianni Fiorletta (right) is proud to help three boys with the Italian Flag. With Mayor Fiorletta is Ennio Malancona (left), and Giuseppe Iorio The boys are (left to right) Will Sheley, Jake Sheley and Danny Appino

Italian Tradition Workshop Recreating St. Joseph Altar Spera!

February 12 & 13, 2005 will go down in Sicilian History! Yes, we decided to “bring back” the learning by recreating the beautifully intricate St. Joseph altar “cookie” designs that our grandparents made or had made for our home altars many years ago. Do you remember Miss Margaret Armato, Mrs. Provensano, and Mrs. Altamore and others who were always “there” to make the Spera, Sacred Heart, Peacock and Flower Pots for our home altars? Gene and Shirley Fedeli, culture chairpersons for GRIAA’s Culture and Education Committee along with Rose Ann Scalise Sheridan and Martha and Carl Scalise were the teachers. We had two session on Saturday, February 12th and Sunday, February 13th with eight “apprentices” who recreated those treasures from the past. What a wonderful time we had…kneading and rolling the dough, forming and cutting beautiful designs of our rich and traditional past. If you are interested in learning many of the “almost forgotten” favorite Italian traditions, contact us and learn how you can help preserve our heritage and become a part of the amazing chain of family linked to the past but preserving the future. Yes, this is an important part of our GRIAA mission.

Italian Tradition Workshop 2007 Pignolatti for St. Anthony Church Altar and the home Altar of Rosie Scalise Sheridan

We presented a workshop on February 24, 2007 at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Rockford, IL where we helped members of the church learn to make the traditional Pignolatti. This is one of the traditional desserts served at the Sicilian St. Joseph Altar. This workshop extended over two weeks. The first week we made the dough, rolled it out into pencil lengths, then cut them into small pieces. Then they were fried in hot oil until golden brown.

The following week we prepared the honey and sugar mixture. The fired pieces were coated, then formed into pyramids that represented the pignola or cone of the old days.
Pignolatti workers at St. Anthony Church March of 2008

One thought on “Culture & Education Committee

  1. Frank, I have read most of your writings. The research you did, was great, I really enjoyed the Perrecone. Saparito,story of your mom and dad. I have wanted to contact you for along time, but fear held me back. Be proud of the Italian heritage. If you don’t remember me, Charlie, was my dad.

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