Italy is more than just pizza and amore, and no one knows that better than the folks in Folsom City.
Six hours north of Santa Barbara sits Crespano del Grappa’s sister city, which has played host to rich Italian architecture since the arrival of Crespano native Giuseppe “Joe” Murer in 1910. Now, 100 years later, the city which came to love the young architect is celebrating the cultural wealth of his native land.
The Murer House Foundation will host the Crespano del Grappa festival in Folsom on October 3 to honor its sister city, Crespano del Grappa, and will feature food, outdoor painting, and an accordion player, as well as information about the twin city overseas.
Crespano del Grappa, located in Traveso, a North Eastern region of Italy, became Folsom’s sister city in 1997. Cindy Baker of the Murer House Foundation said that when Folsom’s entourage of city officials journeyed to Crespano, they were surprised to find hundreds of visiting Californians - particularly, Santa Barbara residents.
“One councilwoman turned around and saw a guy with a cowboy hat, and he said he was from California,” said Baker. “All these people immigrated from Crespano to Santa Barbara.”
Baker said there were approximately 2,500 Crespanesi natives living in Santa Barbara, all of whom “seem really engaged” and “travel back all the time,” which is why she hopes they will trek north to join in Folsom’s celebration.
“We hope that the whole city of Folsom can celebrate the relationship,” said Baker. “We hope it’s the first of many.”
The Murer House Foundation - which works out of a 130-year-old classroom next to Murer’s old house - is a nonprofit group that seeks to promote Crespanesi culture through courses on Italian language, cooking, and art. Volunteers help raise funds to maintain the home Murer constructed 85 years ago, which Baker says is a bona fide national landmark.
“His house - which he built himself, with his own two hands - has been evaluated and is eligible for the National Register because it exhibits the work of a master and is significant in Folsom’s past,” said Baker.
A beautiful little home with cobblestone terraces and pillared bookcase columns, the Murer House and adjacent classroom sit on Sutter Street, where Murer also built the town’s first hotel, first gas station, and first post office, giving Folsom what Baker calls “more of an Italian flare.”
“We formed in 1855, so we were early, but [Murer] changed the architecture and added an important element,” said Baker.
Once establishing himself in Folsom, Murer entrenched himself in community work. According to the Foundation’s Web site, Murere served as fire chief of Folsom Volunteers, joined the Knights of Phythias, and was president of the Portuguese club “after being asked to serve by his numerous Portuguese friends.”
And since a wall was recently installed this past summer around the Murer House, Baker says the foundation can host more than just cultural exhibits.
Yet despite the city’s sisterhood with Crespano, Baker said only about 10 Crespanesi live in Folsom, which is why she hopes the 2,500 Crespanesi residents of Santa Barbara will come north and join in the festivities.
Baker said Luigi Vello of Sacramento owns the Italian Importing Factory and plans to bring food to the event, much in the same way his father once brought goodies to Murer’s house.
“Luigi’s father and Joe [Murer] were best friends, and because the Italians are all expatriates they would have big parties at Joe’s house,” said Baker. “We’re following the original party, so Luigi is going to bring food from the Crespano region.”
Partnering with the Folsom Garden Club, the Folsom Historical Society, and the Folsom Arts Association, Baker said she expects the foundation’s first festival the be both informative and fun, much in the way Murer’s house parties used to be.
“We’re just kind of getting this whole sister city thing going,” said Baker. “We’re going to have more info on [Crespano] and have a table set up where people can sign greetings to citizens in our sister city.”