In its 88th year, the Italian American Cultural Club held its annual Ballo di Primavera on March 23 at St. Florian Hall in Wintersville with attendees enjoying a meal and evening out that included the fabulous music of the EuroRhythms, who know how to bring people to the dance floor.
This time around at the event brought a history lesson for me courtesy of Alphonse Ruggieri, himself a former 12-year president of the club.
Here's what I learned.
From left, Mark and Tina Tiberio, Laurette Tiberio Smoljasovich, Philomena and Frank DeStefano and Denise and Vince Manini
-- Janice Kiaski
It was 1925 when a small group of men formed the Steubenville Dramatic Club that would early on include two young women who were natives of Italy. In November 1926, the club gave its first performance, "Romeo and Juliet," at Wells High School, then in 1927 at Weirton High School.
Shortly after that, the club was approached by a committee from St. Anthony of Padua Church to present a play to benefit the church, which it did, making a profit of $600 for the church.
In the spring of 1928, an opera was performed, then a drama with five acts. "After this play, the enthusiasm among the Italians was so great that some of the young girls of Italian descent joined the club to participate in the plays," according to Ruggieri's history. By now, it had more women than men.
Plays presented from 1929 through 1934 benefited the Italian Red Cross, the Sons of Italy of Bradock, Pa., and St. Anthony Church.
Several plays in the spring of 1936 raised funds to the tune of $2,000 to help Italy during the Great Depression.
Many performances were presented from 1937-41, but after Italy declared war with America in 1941, the club remained inactive, having meetings only. In 1946, the club merged with the Columbus Club, becoming the Columbus Dramatic Club. In 1952 the club became independent again and reorganized under the present name - the Italian American Cultural Club.
From 1952-63, the club sponsored many dinners and concerts and, in later years, plays and operas were sponsored to benefit charitable organizations.
The club's 75th anniversary was held in 1995 at Williams Country Club with Judge Patrick Tamilia, the national president of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America, as the main speaker.
When the club marked its 80th anniversary in 2005 at St. Florian Hall, Catherine Lancia was honored as a member of the club since its inception, and Ruggieri was honored for having been its president for 12 years, promoting the ideals of the club and the Italian culture.
Elida Petrella served as chair of the Ballo di Primavera event with a committee that included Carol and Lou Almonte, Jane Antonucci, John and Donna Balzano, Rose Chappano, Sherry Chappano, Barb Crugnale, Rita and Bill DiMarzio, Michele Fabbro, Carm and Lou Gentile, JoAnn Giralico, Carolyn and Ed Klonowski, Ed and Teresa Laman, Assunta Oliveri, Billy Petrella, Todd Piergallini, Mariella Pittera, Lucia Scaffidi, Maria Settepanella, JoJo Tarquinio, Andrea Yoho, Michael Zinno and Teresa Zrinyi.
The club, led by Carm Gentile, president, is going strong keeping the Italian culture alive.