Where We Have Been
The Santa Lucia Italian Festival has been located in 9 different locations around the metro, mostly in eastern Omaha and the downtown vicinity. Each festival relocation was due to different circumstances. The first move out of Little Italy in 1982 was controversial. The festival was outgrowing the narrow streets and neighborhoods, and city officials were trying to lure more events to the newly constructed Central Park Mall, and provided a number of incentives to move. While successful in the early days of the move to downtown Omaha, the festival’s time there eventually ran its course, setting the table for future moves, making it really difficult to again establish its ties to Little Italy, as the neighborhood demographics changed. In 2020 we were able to return to our roots of Little Italy.
Location History of the Santa Lucia Italian Festival
1925 to 1981 – 6th & Pierce Streets (Little Italy)
1982 to 1987 – Omaha’s Central Park Mall (10th - 13th Streets on Farnam)
1988 to 1996 – Rosenblatt Stadium (10th St to 13th St on Deer Park and adjoin parking lots)
1997 to 1999 – Aksarben Parking lot (near present day 64th & Center Streets
2000 to 2002 – 6th & Pierce Streets (Little Italy
2003 to 2004 – Downtown’s Central Park Mall (11th Street between Harney & Farnam)
2005 – Qwest Center parking lots (Present day CHI Health Center)
2006 – 2019 Lewis & Clark Landing
2020 –10th & William
2021 to Current – 10th & William Streets (Little Italy)
Omaha’s Santa Lucia Festival was founded in 1925 by Grazia Bonafede Caniglia. The mother of six immigrated to the United States from Carlentini, Sicily in 1900. She had a deep faith, walking from Sixth & Pierce Streets at five every morning to say her prayers at nearby St. Philomena Catholic Church (now St. Frances Cabrini).
Where We Began
Grazia & Rosario Caniglia
As more and more Italians built new lives in Omaha, Grazia made it her mission to recreate Carlentini’s Santa Lucia Festival, to give immigrants a strong connection with their former country, and deepen their faith in the new land.
Omaha’s Santa Lucia Festival is one of three organizations supported by the Italian Community. Omaha’s Sons of Italy was formed in 1926, originally as the Benito Mussolini Lodge. The American Italian Heritage Society. formed in 1980, sponsors La Festa Italiana each September.
The Carlentinesi officially dedicated their town to Santa Lucia in 1621. Several stories emerged naming the exact spot where Lucia rested during a pilgrimage to Catania to visit the tomb of Saint Agata. In Via Porta Agnone, an olive tree stood until the 1940s called in Sicilian the “U peri aliva ri S. Lucia”. Its oil fueled a lamp at the shrine to Santa Lucia on that spot. Today, the tree is gone, but the shrine remains.
Today, the festa at Carlentini is as strong as ever despite some recent hardships. On the night of Santa Lucia’s feast day – December 13, 1990 – an earthquake struck very close to Carlentini that killed 17 people and left 15,000 homeless. Even though it had been almost a century since the Carlentinesi had immigrated to Omaha, the community rallied to raise money for their relief through St. Frances Cabrini parish.
In Sicily the Santa Lucia Festival is a great time, not only for fun and food, but mostly for spiritual renewal.
The annual Mass for Santa Lucia is held at Chiesa Madre Church in Carlentini. Visit Their Page Here.