THE Australian Italian Festival at Ingham will mark a quarter-century milestone on Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4.
Having first started in 1995 as part of a community initiative to drive economic diversity and after an inauspicious start, the festival has grown bigger and better every year.
This year's festival is appropriately themed "25 Anni di Festa" - 25 years of festa.
Festival director Donna Zanotto has been involved with the event in varying capacities for all of its 25 years and said recognising the anniversary would make it an even more memorable year.
"It's quite a milestone," Mrs Zanotto said.
"The inaugural festival was a washout, it got rained upon very heavily. We pulled up from there and it has been bigger and better every year.
"We have been compiling a historical booklet and you can see how far its has come along."
"It's not just a cultural festival. We are also honouring the early Italian immigrants that came here and their input into not just Ingham but North Queensland."
The award-winning TYTO centre is transformed into a huge piazza with entertainment on two stages, concerts, competitions, children's rides, market stalls and Italian food.
The Signorinas will be on hand to assist visitors with any information or directions.
Things will kick off on Thursday, August 1 with the Hair, Fashion and Bridal Spectacular at Hinchinbrook Shire Hall, followed by the Gala Masquerade Ball, a glamorous event with a touch of masked mystery and live entertainment, on Friday, August 2.
The festa gates will be open from 10am to 11.30pm on Saturday, August 3 and from 10am to 3pm on Sunday, August 4.
There'll be singing and dancing on the main stage, as well as performances on the Parklands Stage, including flag throwers from Parma, a world music dance band, choirs, fire twirlers, the 1RAR Band, a hip hop/breakdancer, comedians and much more.
A show by Italian folk dancers will be open to public participation.
Luke and Salvatore from MKR will be the culinary special guests, cooking up a storm using simple recipes and including taste testing.
Other entertainment includes competitive games such as the greasy pole climb, pizza and pasta eating, grape stomping, gondola races, bocce classes and txingas.
Ticketed teenage entertainment includes laser skirmish, Nerf combat, bubble soccer and archery combat.
There will be plenty of entertainment for under 16s in the free Kids Corner, with face painting, a puppet show, hula hoop workshop, jumping castle, rock climbing wall, pirate ship ride and inflatable slide.
Mrs Zanotto said those who attend would never forget the experience.
"We try and stage it in such a way that it feels like you are going to a festa in Italy," she said.
"There is all-authentic home-cooked food made and you can see people cooking it. There are traditional competitions that you would see happening in Italy.
"We will have flag throwers and a tenor from Italy, here just for the festival.
"It really is a family festival. There is an entry fee and once you get in the gate, except for food and drink, everything else is free. It's great for little kids because they can then ride 24/7."
- For further information visit www.australianitalianfestival.com.au.