By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 29, 2024 at 7:18 PM

When Festa Italiana returns to the Summerfest grounds Friday for the first time since 2019, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will be on hand at the opening ceremonies.

The Italian Community Center announced Wednesday that Dr. Biden will speak at the Festa kick-off, which is set for Friday, May 31 at 6 p.m. in the newly renovated Aurora Pavilion near the Mid-Gate.

Biden is the first Italian-American first lady. Her paternal grandfather Gaetano Giacoppa changed his surname to Jacobs after arriving in the United States in 1885 from Gesso, near Messina in Sicily.

Festa Italiana 2024 takes place May 31-June 2 at the Henry W. Maier Festival Park on the lakefront.

The opening ceremony is open to the public, provided you have a festival ticket. Festa admission is $15 or $30 for a three-day pass.

Festa Italiana was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and in 2022, the usual July event at the lakefront was moved to September at the ICC. The 2023 event was also held on the ICC grounds, just across the street from Summerfest.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.