Myrtleford’s Italian history
It was during the 1920s when the first wave of Italian migration arrived in the district and established themselves in the tobacco industry. More Italians arrived in Myrtleford in 1942, although this time as prisoners of war interned at the POW Camp at East Whorouly. Many went to work on farms during this period, endearing themselves to the community.
It was after the end of the Second World War that the tobacco farms around Myrtleford experienced a second influx of Italians, from many regions of Italy; through sheer hard work, many were able to buy their own farms and the tobacco industry began to boom.
Italian migrants came from a variety of regions and have stamped their culture in Myrtleford and surrounding district. The town’s population is around 3,000 and 1 in 7 is of Italian descent.
La Fiera – The Beginning
If could be said that La Fiera evolved from Myrtleford’s support for a motor rally called the Italian Connection Motor Rally in 2007.
This event comprised cars of Italian manufacture. The cars travelled from Sydney to Melbourne and stopped overnight in Myrtleford. The town was approached for the stop because of the region’s strong Italian heritage.
The Italian motoring event attracted considerable interest and it occurred to Noel Stone, a local Myrtleford identity that Myrtleford could draw upon the resources of its Italian community and build an Italian festival.
Driven by Noel meetings were held at and it was agreed that a festa should be created and would be called La Fiera (The Fair).
May 2009 the first La Fiera was help, under Noel’s leadership and with the support of the MCC&I as the auspicing body and a budget topping $30k.
The 2009 programme comprised many events such as Food & Wine Expo, a Film Festival, Art Exhibition, Mass for St Anthony of Padua, Choral Festival, Heritage Display, Motor Rally, Soccer & Bocce Challenge, Cooking Classes, Living Chess Match & more
The 2010 La Fiera added to the above events with a Masquerade Ball, and the Tortellini Trail (a guide to local wineries and farm gate outlets and Special Dinners).
From then on, La Fiera has continued and flourished, based on these and similar events.
2012 Myrtleford opened its new Piazza in the middle of the town, being the only Australian town to officially have a Piazza as its town centre; testimony indeed to the strong Italian heritage of the region.
The Piazza has a dance square with an elevated stage area. This space has also doubled as a giant chessboard to enable the presentation of the Living Chess Match, a theatrical enactment involving 50 or so local participants, based on the story of two young noblemen from Marostica (city in Italy) who are required to play a chess match to determine who shall marry the Lord’s eldest daughter.
Whilst Myrtleford’s La Fiera is very much about celebrating the contributions of the Italian generations to the region, it is also about Community. Our local Italian Circoli – Calabrese, Trentini, Trevisani & Vicentini – play an integral part in the festivities, in promoting the Italian Culture and their regional cuisine.
Under the guidance of Myrtleford’s Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the support of many Myrtleford businesses and the vision of the its founder, La Fiera has continued to grow over the past 12 years as arguably Australia’s most authentic Italian Festival.
We look forward to sharing La Fiera with you. CIAO!