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Food, flags, fun and flair – with an Italian accent

Annual festival at the Resort at Pelican Hill celebrates cuisine and culture to begin harvest season.

September 18, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Edoardo Caselli marches in formation during a sneak preview of the Festa dell'Autunno at Fashion Island on Saturday.
Edoardo Caselli marches in formation during a sneak preview… (Susan Hoffman,…)

Visitors at Fashion Island on Saturday appeared to be stuck in a time warp.

Parents paused beside chic — and high-tech — strollers, taking pictures with cell phones. The scene in front of them, though, seemed straight out of medieval Europe.

Traditional Italian flag-bearers, dressed in colorful leotards and tunics, strode onto the grassy knoll outside Bloomingdale's, clutching intricately designed silk panels that fluttered atop staffs. Flanked by two similarly clad female helpers and a drummer, they executed an athletic and highly synchronized aerial ballet.

Despite the beating sun, the performers maintained their focus on the flags — their own and each other's — which they tossed and spun effortlessly, drawing applause and murmurs of approval from the audience.

At some points, Andrea Baraldi, 27, a resident of Ferrara and seven-time national flag-bearing champion of Italy, tossed five of them at once. He was 15 when he joined friends and community members to represent his section of town, reflected by the colors in his flag.

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"It is fundamental that we stay connected to our history, because that's where we came from," Baraldi said through a translator. "Therefore, a display like this, which is very vivid in Italy and very important, is part and parcel of who we are."

Although not an official sport, flag-bearing is extremely competitive, noted Baraldi, who maintains an edge by training three to four hours daily, six days a week. He allows himself Sunday, when he goes to church.

The estimated 20-minute show at 1 p.m. was followed by an identical demonstration at 3 p.m. in the open-air Newport Beach retail venue. The following day, the entertainers performed their routine in the nearby Crystal Cove Shopping Center — all a prelude to the Festa dell'Autunno, hosted by the Resort at Pelican Hill from Friday through Sunday.

This is the 504-acre hotel's third annual celebration of the harvest season, which this year spotlights specialties from Tuscany, Piedmont, Veneto and Romagna.

"In Italy, it's very traditional to have community events in the spring and autumn centered on enjoying art, entertainment, food, wine and good company," said Pelican Hill's managing director, Giuseppe Lama.

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