Preserving Italian culture: Club dedicated to continuing proud heritage

ABOVE: Joann Cavo-Campbell, left, and the Italian Heritage Club of the Mohawk Valley recognized the historical importance of the Italian Community Bake Oven in Little Falls in a ceremony in October 2022. At right is Philomena Cerone, a club member and board member of Preserve Our Past in Little Falls.

Our parish is composed of individuals from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Our population includes people who trace their heritage to Europe, Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

There is no mistaking, however, the profound influence of the Italians and their culture on St. Mary of Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament.


From its founding more than 125 years ago as a bulwark of Italian immigrants in Utica, the imprimatur of Italians can be seen in our building’s architecture (Romanesque) and decoration (Italian Baroque). We see it in our holiday cookie sales (Sicilian cuccidati), and festival fare (such as sausage and peppers). Our pizza fritta remains the biggest seller at our festival raising thousands of dollars. The way we remember saints from the “Old Country” in our “Hall of Saints” and the special ways we celebrate holidays recall Italian roots.

Recently, the parish collaborated again with the Italian Heritage Club of the Mohawk Valley to host our annual Italian Christmas Gathering. Approximately 100 guests shared a delicious meal, followed by Italian pastry and cookies, Italian songs and communal dancing.

Some people, however, are unfamiliar with the organization and what it does. To that end let’s delve into its history and some of its goals and projects.

When the former Sons of Italy Lodge on Bleecker Street closed in 2012, the presence of the Italian-American community in Utica took a severe blow. A group of 60 former members wanted to reaffirm the Italian presence in Utica without the encumbrance of a building to support and maintain. Thus, The Italian Heritage Club of the Mohawk Valley was born. Composed of 275 members, the organization has supported a variety of initiatives that preserve the Italian heritage throughout the Mohawk Valley. 

Under the leadership of Joann Cavo-Campbell and her officers and board of directors, the organization has contributed the following:

Recognized the historical importance of the Italian Community Bake Oven in Little Falls in a special ceremony there in October 2022.

Since 2020, has led flag raisings of the American and Italian colors in recognition of Italian Culture Month each October at municipal buildings in Utica, Rome and Herkimer.

Also, since 2020, honored the contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants to the city of Utica by laying a wreath at the foot of the Columbus statue on Utica’s Parkway.

Sponsored an exhibit of Italian and Italian-American artifacts at the Oneida County History Center in October in 2022

Sponsored a cruise on the Erie Canal and luncheon from Herkimer in 2022.

Hosted “La Dolce Vita” at Rutger Park Landmark Society of Utica’s mansions, featuring Italian music, artwork and sweets.

Collaborated with the Landmarks Society of Utica for a special tour of the Rutger Street mansions in 2021.

Sponsored a reception at Sculpture Space to celebrate the arrival of an Italian artist-in-residence.

During COVID, hosted a pizza fritta event at the Presbyterian Home for residents.

Sponsored two tours of F.T. Proctor Park with Olmstead City President Phil Bean before and after the lily pond restoration (to which several members contributed).

Conducted an honors banquet in October recognizing contributors to the good reputation of the Italian community.

Has supported the revival of the Coro Italiano of the Mohawk Valley, increasing requests for six concerts its first year back to 30 requests this year.

Informed the public of its activities and the promotion of Italian culture through its membership newsletter and the maintenance of its Facebook page viewed by thousands of people all over the country.

Through its basket raffle at the parish Christmas parties, raised hundreds of dollars to support the good work of the Veterans Outreach Center of Utica

Had informal lunches where people can gather and share stories and history.

Sponsors regular cultural evenings to learn about Italian culture and dine on regional delicacies from all over Italy.

Bestows annual scholarships on exceptional graduating high school seniors.

And finally, made other monetary contributions to a variety of charitable causes in the community.

Become a member

The Italian Heritage Club of the Mohawk Valley welcomes new members. One needn’t have Italian roots to join, only a love for Italian and Italian-American culture is required. Contact Joanne Cavo-Campbell at 315-733-6106.