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That One Day in September

The Salami Board reminisce on the first but definitely not the last Melbourne Salami Festa.

Published on January 31st 2013 | by Carlo Mazzarella

Around 7:30pm on September 16th 2012 the Florinian House looked like a hurricane had just swept through it. A human hurricane. Over 1,000 people passed through the doors that day over the course of the four and half hours the festa ran for and the members of The Salami Board, their partners and some family members got on with the massive clean up job. We mopped, scrubbed, lifted and dismantled but what took so long to set up was much quicker to take apart, but much harder work. We were spent.

That was until we heard the words from a female voice say, “Well it seems the Italian tradition of making salami is alive and well in Melbourne…” We all turned to look up at the small tube television that was attached to the brick wall of the social club. The ABC news reporter kept delivering her intro but her voice was eclipsed by the massive image of our festa tables and the words Salami Festival displayed behind her. We had made the national news. Amazing.

ABC journalist Danny Morgan’s report began and I must say a tear came to my eye (although that’s easily done) when I saw my parents up on the screen on a national news broadcast talking about our families salami. Very surreal and special. My mum did well in front of the camera and my Dad shyly took a bite of his creation and although our salami didn’t even make it into the Top 20 it looked pretty bloody good on TV.

We had to pinch ourselves when images of the Festa played on the screen and we burst out laughing in excitement as we recognised family and friends in the crowd and seeing vision of all those people lining up on High street shocked us for the second time that day. The Melbourne Salami Festa didn’t just arrive, it exploded.

After the clean up which ended close to midnight we headed down High Street to Kitty Somerset, whose owner mind you even found his way onto the ABC News nodding approvingly after tasting one of the contestants salami’s. We took our seats at the bar and ordered a round of Negroni’s. The only drink that could possibly take us higher than we already were feeling.

Watching and re-watching the ABC report on our phones it hit us that we created something quite special in one of the only cities in the world that would draw that much of a community response. That’s the thing we realised about Melbourne, we’re a big city but haven’t lost that strong community feel. In fact it seems like it’s getting stronger every year. So thank you Melbourne.

And talking back over the day having been split up for most of it we shared stories and anecdotes of the day. Conversations we had, chaos we were trying to control, people we hugged or were hugged by, things that worked and things that didn’t work. We so quickly put our Salami Board hats on and assessed the day and ourselves and what we can do better next time. Two things were certain after that discussion. We need a bigger venue but chaos is beautiful and fun too. We have to find a balance.

And lastly we talked about the makers. We each had our favourites. Most of these people were strangers to us but who put so much effort into making the day a success. Countless times we had makers seeing that we were run off our feet putting their hand up to help out or to get more salami they had stashed in their car. They all were really invested in the day and it contributed to giving that room that special family and community party atmosphere.

I know we say it a lot but without the makers the festa cannot exist. To the older generation of makers who kept this tradition alive even when for many years in the past it would’ve been something to keep a secret we thank you. And to the new generation coming through who are embracing this ancient and sustainable way of providing for oneself we thank you as well. To the makers we make a promise. That as the festa grows year on year we will always keep you as Number 1. Thank you.


About the Author

Carlo Mazzarella



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