Southington Italian-American Festival finds new way to fly Italian flags. Here’s how they did it.

Green, white and red Italian flags are flying over Center Street in Southington this week, but on private poles this year instead of on town property.

With the annual Italian-American Festival scheduled for this weekend, supporters around the Sons of Italy hall on Center Street have raised about a dozen flags.


But Because Southington this year banned non-governmental flags on town property, those flags are on privately owned poles or are displayed on storefronts.

Despite some residents’ heated Facebook exchanges about political overtones of the new flag restrictions, the festival promoters say they are staying clear of that entire debate. Instead, they’re happy that they found a way to keep the flags flying without violating the town ordinance.


“We just rearranged them. Private property owners were very gracious and worked with us. We just wanted to keep the tradition going,” said Dave Zoni of Unico, which co-sponsors the festival along with the local Sons of Italy and Sorelle d’Italia in America.

Flags became a partisan topic in Southington earlier this year when the town council decided to bar most flags from public property. The United States, Connecticut, Southington and POW-MIA flags are permitted, but all others are forbidden.

The decision was made on a party-line vote, with majority Republicans saying it protected the town’s legal interest while minority Democrats complained it hurt many organizations and interest groups.

Some Democrats argued that the move was precipitated by opposition to gay rights and noted that local social media was peppered with anti-gay postings after the town raised the Pride flag on a municipal flagpole in 2021.

This spring, Democrats on the council called on Republicans to allow Ukrainian flags over municipal property. But the GOP majority did not go along, with some suggesting that the town could be forced to raise a Russian flag if it did that.

Critics of the ordinance did not agree.

“I think most people see what’s truly going on,” resident Walter Grover told the council in the spring. “This has nothing to do with ‘What if they want to raise the Russian flag?’ It really has to do with appeasing a small minority group who oppose having our Pride flag raised.”

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Republicans said avoiding outside flags altogether is the safest route to take and cited a Supreme Court decision that went against the city of Boston. A religious organization claimed it was wrongly denied permission to fly the Christian flag in front of Boston’s city hall.


Boston contended that the Bill of Rights blocks government from promoting any religion, but the plaintiff — the Camp Constitution organization — countered that the city had discriminated against it after approving other non-governmental flags.

Zoni said festival organizers were pleased simply to get the Italian flags placed before the festival.

“We started this festival in 2005. We’ve had it every year except because of Covid in 2020,” he said. “It basically became a tradition to put out Italian and American flags. Some people got a little upset because they don’t like breaking traditions.

“This is an ethnic festival and people are very passionate about their heritage,” he said. “The vision of the festival is to promote Italian heritage. That’s the main message. And waving our flags is part of that. But this way we kept the tradition without turning any of it political.”

The three-day festival begins Friday afternoon when Center Street near the Sons of Italy is limited to only pedestrian traffic. Hours are Friday 5 to 10 p.m. (fireworks at 9 p.m.); Saturday 3 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.Thousands of people are expected to visit the neighborhood for live music, Italian food, face painting, firework and other activities. The schedule is at

Don Stacom can be reached at