VACAVILLE — As the aroma of fresh pasta, meatballs and Italian sausage permeated the air, a quiet crowd of hundreds gathered at Pippo Ranch in Vacaville for the 16th annual Italian Festival.
People ate, danced and listened to live music.
Others enjoyed a small petting zoo, which featured baby goats, chickens, rabbits and a llama.
“We’re enjoying it. Enjoying the Italian culture and the dancing music,” said Freddy Estrella of Vacaville, who took in the festival with his son, Kayden, 4. “It’s very relaxing. We got the guy that makes the balloons, the little animal farm down there with the llama.”
Estrella said it was his first visit to Pippo Ranch and to the festival, but it was a good time.
“The music has been awesome. It’s been great just watching people sit down and enjoy the whole cultural piece has been pretty cool,” he said. “(It’s) my first time being at Pippo Ranch, but it seems very welcoming.”
Along with balloon animals, bounce houses, food and crafts, no celebration of Italian culture is complete without bocce.
Rick Williams, of Vacaville, spent part of his afternoon teaching his daughters, Taelor, 15, and Hannah, 10, to play bocce.
“Passing it down to my girls, how to play,” Williams said as he and wife, Nicole, watched the girls take turns on the court.
“We’ve been coming here for quite a while. We even got married here two years ago,” Williams said. “So that adds even more to it.”
The Italian Festival has been an annual thing for Williams for years.
“We came and got some beverages, listened to the music, said hi to . . . the family and came out here and started playing bocce ball and we’ll go get something to eat here in a little bit,” he said pointing in the direction of the delicious smells.
“The food is great,” Nicole Williams said.
For the girls, the highlight was trying a new game.
“Learning how to play bocce,” Taelor said as her sister nodded.
The mellow atmosphere was just the right thing for a warm, but not a scorching Saturday afternoon.
“We just sit on the lawn. The kids come and play in the grass,” Rick Williams said. “It’s become a tradition with my whole group of friends.”
Even the performers were having a good time.
Virginia Griffin Petrali of Sacramento’s Balliamo! folk dance troupe visited with people as the Golden State Accordion Band entertained the crowd.
“We’re an Italian folk dance troupe from the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society,” Griffin Petrali said. “Balliamo means ‘Let’s dance.’ ”
The group was scheduled for two performances Saturday.
“We love this one. We’re invited to dance here every year,” Griffin Petrali said. “What we like is that (organizers) pay tribute to the armed forces.”
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.