Blog – 5 Steps for Mobile App Success

August 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Julie Caan

Vollrath Associates recently had the pleasure of working with Festa Italiana on the creation of its first mobile app – Festa MKE. The app launched in late-June, but the planning began months out. While we are certainly not app “experts,” we have definitely learned a thing or two throughout this process along the way!

Here are a few key things we learned and tips for those interested in creating an app for your business or event:

Step 1: Have a purpose. Before we began, we asked ourselves, what is our purpose for creating this app? Apps are like new toys. However, unless they serve a purpose, they run the risk of becoming shiny new toys that are never played with (or downloaded).

Make sure your app serves a real benefit to your customers and key target audience. In our case, we wanted our app to serve as a comprehensive source of information both before and during the festival. We considered our demographic, families, many of whom use their smartphones daily to check emails, use the Internet and access social media sites. Festa was also interested in reaching a younger, more tech-savvy audience so this parlayed nicely into that.

With nearly 40 food vendors, seven stages, countless entertainment acts and a wide variety of attractions, we wanted a way to streamline all of this information into one, easy to use location. Hence, the need for an app. Now you can say, hey, there’s a Festa app for that!

festa 2

Step 2: Determine scope. Once we determined that we did indeed need an app, we needed to figure out how to create it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is an app. Our agency specializes in public relations and, while we are certainly skilled marketers and copywriters, the whole “building an app” thing was a little foreign to us. Luckily for us, we had great partners. We worked with THIEL Design (who had previous experience building apps) to create the app’s interfaces. THIEL, in turn, recommended Xorbix Technologies to us to help actually build and program the app.

Step 3: Functionality. Going into any app, aside from having a purpose, you need to know what you want your app to do. Do you want it to serve as a selling tool? An extension of your marketing efforts? Offer a new way for your customers to engage? Once you nail down what you want the app to do, you need to determine how you will do it.

For our part, we wanted an app that was on one hand, extremely user-friendly, and on the other, encompassed A LOT of information. These two goals don’t always go hand-in-hand, but in the end, our app managed to merge the two harmoniously.

The app’s wireframe included a home screen, weather widget, entertainment lineup, general info., interactive map, food vendors, history, photo gallery, social media integration, sponsors and Italian phrases. We incorporated a mix of need-to-know information, along with some fun things to enhance the festival going experience. In building the app, we determined the areas that would get the most use (entertainment line-up, food, festival map) and made sure to make them top-notch.

festa 1

Step 4: Thorough Checking and Testing. All total, the Festa app took about 4 months to build. One of those months was devoted solely to testing. An app such as this that incorporates a large volume of information needs to be checked and tested thoroughly. We checked all of the information several times as well as the usability knowing that we wanted to limit our updates after launch.

Testing is something to keep in mind when you are planning your app’s timeframe. We knew our app needed to launch mid-June for the start of the July 19 festival so we made sure to build time in for testing and approvals.

Step 5: Promote. Once our app launched, we got busy doing what we do best – promoting it! Remember when we said what good is an app if it doesn’t serve a purpose? Similarly, what good is an app if no one knows about it?

Make sure to list your app prominently on all marketing materials, along with information for how and where to download it. For Festa, that meant putting the app’s icon on the website, digital billboards, traditional and online advertising and across social media platforms (we created a custom cover photo for Facebook).

Since this was a big step for Festa as the first ethnic festival in Milwaukee with an app, we made sure to let all local news outlets know about its launch via a press release and some separate pitching. The press release resulted in several articles and social media interactions that reached our target and garnered great feedback. We also made sure to mention the app and show how to use it in all of our TV interviews leading up to and during the event.

Looking back, the app was a great success and had several thousand downloads. We are looking forward to refining the app and making it even better for next year!

festa 3


Summer 2013: Unplugged

June 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Sarah McClanahan, Intern


It’s June and Milwaukee is finally heating up! Hopefully, we are past the random cold days and spontaneous thunderstorms and we can begin to enjoy our beautiful city. At VA, we love being outdoors! To experience summer to the fullest, we created this 2013 Summer Bucket List:





1. Jazz in the Park. The stage in Cathedral Square waiting for the performers and the crowd.

2. Milwaukee Air & Water Show. Phil and Julie last summer at the Air Show.

3. Lunch in Cathedral Square. Looking East over Cathedral Square, almost right from our office door!

4. Bastille Days. Casey, Phil, Jessica and Julie at Bastille Days.

5. Golfing. Marilyn loves golfing. She even has her own team, “Nine and Wine.”

6. Boating. After a long day on the lake, Phil walks the boat in.

7. Festa Italiana. Jessica, Casey and Julie playing bocce at Festa 2012.


Other things on our list include trips to Door Country, soaking up the sun at Bradford Beach, attending outdoor concerts, getting popcorn at Koepsell’s Popcorn Stand (Phil!), dining on the patio at our favorite restaurants and much more!


However, we quickly realized that to make the most of this summer and these events, we need to leave behind the one thing we all cling to the most: our technology. Phones. Tablets. Laptops. Forget ‘em! Outside of the office, we are challenging ourselves to spend as much time unplugged as possible.


Think about the last time you went a day without technology. Do you think you could go a day without your smartphone? A week? As we look forward to our summer activities, we plan on staying engaged in the present by putting away our smartphones– at least for the evening. While this may be challenging at first, the more time you spend unplugged, the easier it will become. By putting down the phone, you may not be able to post a status on Facebook or check-in on FourSquare, but you will definitely have more memories of actually spending time with those you are with.


If you need more incentive to stay unplugged for the summer, check out these five fast facts about the health benefits of leaving the phone at home:


1. Sunshine boosts the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin which lifts your mood.

2. Spending quality face-to-face time with friends and family strengthens relationships.

3. Listening to water washing in on the shore alters the wave patterns in your brain, much like meditation.

4. Sitting on the beach encourages contemplation and reflection.

5. A walk in nature improves your memory, enhances your immune system and boosts your mood.


So are you up for the challenge? Will you join us on our quest to pass the zero-technology test? Put down the phone and take on our Summer 2013 Unplugged Challenge! Let us know how it’s going via Twitter, Facebook or commenting below!

YP Week Milwaukee – Looking Back

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Julie Caan

YP Week Milwaukee. A series of events presented by Newaukee that celebrate all that is vibrant in Milwaukee – giving the city’s young professionals an inside look at what’s going on in our city and how it affects us. Both Jessica and I attended a few of the week’s events. The following is a recap of the highlights and what we learned.

Milwaukee: The Silicon Valley of Water

Many young people know Milwaukee as the Brew City. Given our city’s rich history of breweries and deep-rooted German culture, this label is an easy one to apply (and one that many Milwaukeeans, including myself, take pride in). However, thanks in part to organizations like The Water Council, an alliance formed five years ago by leading water technology companies in Southeastern Wisconsin, things are starting to change. AKA less focus on beer, and more focus on one of our Earth’s most precious resources: water.

Rich Meeusen, CEO of Badger Meter, the world’s leading provider of water meter technologies, and co-founder of The Water Council, kicked-off Tuesday morning’s event by providing a history of water in Milwaukee and a glimpse into our future as a world water hub. Rich, as always, was entertaining, humorous, and most of all, informative.

Rich Meeusen speaking at YP Week.

Rich Meeusen speaking at YP Week.

Here are my takeaways from Rich’s talk:

  • Every 20 seconds a child dies from lack of water – water is an immediate problem. Rich shared that he believes Milwaukee is the solution.
  • Over 21% of the world’s fresh water  is found right here in the Great Lakes.
  • Milwaukee has an image of a beer town, but we need to get back to our roots – and that’s water.
  • Tanning companies, breweries and other industry first came to Milwaukee because of it’s connection to the Great Lakes. Today, more than 150 water technology companies call Southeastern Wisconsin home. This rare concentration includes companies from every cycle of water. What’s even cooler, is that through the Water Council, these companies work together.
  • The area is also home to more leading water technology companies, more flow labs than anywhere in the world and the first ever school of freshwater sciences (UWM) – Milwaukee is the Silicon Valley of Water.

Perhaps Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said it best when he closed out the program by saying, “You have the East Coat and you have the West Coast, we are America’s Fresh Coast – we are not the Rust Belt anymore, Laverne and Shirley no longer work here.” Amen to that.

To learn more about Milwaukee’s status as one of the world’s most significant hubs for water research and industry, visit The Water Council’s website – you’ll be glad you did!

“Tips and Tools for Growing Your Career” presented by TEMPO Milwaukee.

Another event we really enjoyed was Wednesday morning’s breakfast event, “Tips and Tools for Growing Your Career” presented by TEMPO Milwaukee.

For those unfamiliar with TEMPO, it is an organization made up of women in leadership in the Greater Milwaukee area. The group is comprised of approximately 275 members from more than 100 companies in Milwaukee. Basically, when these women talked, I made sure to listen – they all gave great advice!

Here are just a few of the valuable nuggets I took away from this discussion:

  • “Not everyone is born a leader, but everyone can develop the capacity to lead” – Mary Dowell, director of global community relations, Johnson Controls.
  • “The ability to accept when you make a bad decision and to learn from it; Solicit feedback from key people; Be confident in your decisions,” – Peggy Williams-Smith, senior corporate director of catering, Marcus Hotels & Resorts.
  • “Take time to brainstorm with people with different strengths and skills than you have. Gain as diverse a perspective as you can in order to arrive at the best decision” – Linda Newberry-Ferguson, managing partner, Newberry Ferguson LLC.
  • “A good mentor won’t just tell you the things you want to hear. They will also tell you the things that no one else will take the time to have the courage to tell you. In order to move forward, you have to have the willingness to hear the good and the bad and be thankful.” – Ellen Trytek, chief marketing officer, CliftonLarsonAllen.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this talk was to not be afraid to make mistakes because that is how you grow. A difficult lesson to learn, but a valuable one nonetheless.

Sunday Brunch with Zappos CEO

The last event we attended was brunch with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Wow, it’s not every day you can say you had brunch (well, theoretically speaking) with the CEO of Zappos. Despite his great amount of success and power, I found Tony to be surprisingly down to Earth. As he explained how he started his company, and the tremendous emphasis it puts on culture and community, I really got to thinking how these same principles could be applied to Milwaukee.

Jessica and I at Sunday brunch.

Jessica and I at Sunday brunch.

I could go on and on about takeaways from Tony, but you’d stop reading, so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

  • Whatever you’re thinking, think bigger.
  • No matter what your position at a company, or in any aspect of life, treat people with respect – you never know who’s watching.
  • Money shouldn’t affect your decisions. Chase the vision, not the money.
  • Downtown Las Vegas (where Zappos is headquartered – not the traditional Las Vegas strip as most people would think) focuses on community and collaboration. Utilizing the art of “co-working,” people focus on increasing their “collisions” with others in order to create the greatest amount of idea sharing and betterment for the entire community. I like this concept and think it is one that is being increasingly applied in our area, especially through organizations like the Water Council and Newaukee.

Overall, YP Week taught me to really take ownership and pride in our city – and myself. Even if you don’t consider yourself a leader now, you will be. It’s important to know what’s going on and to take stock in Milwaukee’s future!

The Truth About PR Measurement Resutls

March 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

Measuring the value of public relations is an important, yet often overlooked, process. Knowing what groundwork and benchmarks must be in place and how to utilize the information you gather through measurement is important to ongoing success and key to recognizing where further improvements can be made. With this in mind, we’ve developed a group of ideas to consider when measuring your PR efforts.

Create Objectives

Before creating your PR tactics, you need to have an understanding of what specific goals your client wishes to achieve. ImageObjectives must be clear and holistic, looking at the “big picture” and addressing large-scale outcomes. These objectives can range from generating basic awareness to growing your client’s market share by “x%.” Your objectives should be as specific as possible – outlining what effects are intended to come from the campaign. Having quantitative objectives is preferred – as they are easier to measure and more useful when presenting results to a number-oriented audience. “Bolstering awareness,” is not a good objective, as it is too vague and impossible to measure. However, “bolstering Facebook awareness with women ages 20-25 by a 5% increase in engagement by March 2014” is a strong objective as it is specific and easily measurable. Building objectives is an opportunity to work closely with your clients to help develop and tap into their overall business strategy.

Measure Outcomes Relevant to Business

When measuring the effectiveness of PR efforts, it is important to focus more on the outcomes of the work – rather than the outputs. Were there any changes in consumer habits, employee attitude, company reputation, brand equity or similar effects? Those changes are what the client’s business executives and planners are going to want to know. To validate your PR campaign, it is important that you can prove that business objectives were met effectively. Developed objectives that are focused on what your client wants to have change in perception, attitude or behavior from the campaign will make this step in the measurement process easier.

Quality over Quantity

The amount of total impressions in the media is often mistaken as the most important aspect of measurement. The quality of the impression is much more important, as each impression is an opportunity to connect with an individual on a personal level. Quality is enhanced when the medium is relevant and credible to the audience and delivered using the most appropriate method. Also, adding a third-party spokesperson improves the credibility of your message, enhancing the quality of the impression.

Presenting Results

After understanding the significant measurements, it is important to present your findings to your client appropriately.Image All PR measurements must be presented in a way that is fully transparent to the process used to gather the data. If surveys were used, the size, margin of error and questions should all be released. Likewise, the method used to calculate metrics and specific statistical information should be made available as well. Another important feature of measuring results is making sure the process used to get the results is replicable. Using the same method to compare results of future PR efforts and campaigns will be important to make meaningful comparisons.

Measuring Social Media is Important Too!

Measuring social media efforts is a young but important aspect of PR. There is no single tool or metric in which to measure social media outcomes – and combining a variety of different methods can prove beneficial.Image With social media, it is important to have clear, concise and specific goals in mind. When dealing with social media, the measurement is going to be focused on “conversation” and “engagement,” not simply reach and frequency. It is important to understand reach – however putting more time and consideration into experimenting and testing is key to effectively measuring your PR efforts. Reach and frequency measurements can be explored through the use of a free service called Klout. This tool uses an algorithm to determine how influential a social media account or accounts are. It is important not to use any social media measurement tool alone, Klout can be paired up with Google Analytics, which can show the traffic on a client’s website. Combining both services’ information, a PR team can determine not only how influential the social media account is, but how well it engages the audience by moving them to visit your client’s website. Facebook has its own built-in analytics tool. This feature can show increases or decreases in regards to a page’s reach as well as key demographic information about the audience. TweetReach is another tool that can calculate the reach and engagement of your Twitter page. Regardless of what tool you choose – it is important to monitor the effectiveness of your social media efforts.


Clearly, it is important to measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign or just a PR tactic. How did it align with our objectives? Did we accomplish our goal through this tactic? Keeping expectations realistic by developing specific objectives prior to executing your tactics is the foundation of strong measurement results. Remember to keep measurement focused on quantitative results, and quality engagement. While measurement isn’t always easy, it is important in making the most out of a complete public relations plan. Ongoing evaluation and measurement is an essential part of the PR process.


Pitching Morning News Shows

November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

By: Julie Caan

At Vollrath Associates, we love working with the media. Being media junkies, nothing gets our blood pumping more than securing a TV segment or seeing our client grace the front page. Media relations is an exciting aspect of public relations, and one of the reasons we love coming to work each day. Working with the media takes patience, know-how and a true understanding of an industry that revolves around deadlines and timing. Part of that understanding comes with crafting the perfect pitch.

Team VA recently attended a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter panel where key players from all four Milwaukee TV stations shared their tips for working with PR professionals, specifically pitching morning news and entertainment programs. Gone are the days when the morning news served up the nightly news’ leftovers. Today, morning shows are more dynamic than ever, seeking fresh content and delivering stories people need to know to start their day. It’s the job of morning news producers, editors and anchors to deliver content that effortlessly mixes hard news with lighter content, capable of putting smiles on viewers’ faces. That’s where PR practitioners come in. News stations need our help to find the stories people want to know about.  And it all starts with the pitch.

Below are a few key takeaways to keep in mind when pitching morning shows (Milwaukee and beyond):

  • Local. This one seems obvious, but it’s important that your story really resonate with the stations’ viewership. Take Superstorm Sandy for example. Was your company affected? Did it contribute to the relief effort? Members of the PRSA panel also agreed that there is definitely a trend towards more local programming featuring hyper-local content, which creates even more opportunities for PR professionals.

When pitching the 2012 Milwaukee Air & Water Show in conjunction with Milwaukee’s Navy Week, we offered interviews with local service men and women.

  • Timely. Depending on the news value of your story, the timing will change. If you are delivering breaking news content, make sure your pitch is sent out first thing so that it has a chance to appear in that day’s newscast. If your story can wait, or is considered “soft news,” it might not receive airtime for several weeks and may require advance planning. At Vollrath Associates, we generally pitch items for our consumer-based clients several weeks in advance. These topics may be seasonal in nature, receive their own segment or require more coordination.

When working with our pest control client, we need to make sure seasonal pitches are timed just right.

  • Personalize your Pitch. One anchor from a local entertainment show shared that she receives pitches all the time addressed to her competitor’s station. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to pitch the wrong show with the wrong station. However, this is a huge no-no and one that editors, reporters and anchors in a fiercely competitive market do not take lightly. This is a sure-fire way to get your pitch sent straight to the trash as well as a costly mistake that could affect your relationship with the show.

To avoid mix-ups, know the show you are pitching. Each media outlet prides itself on having a     different flavor, and it’s important as PR professionals that we recognize that. And within each station, each show is unique. Take the time to really get to know the show you are pitching – its segments, talent and featured content.

  • Be Up Front. Don’t bury your angle beneath a wordy pitch or flashy packaging. If you have something great to say, then say it up front. Each member of the panel shared experiences of pitches that took too long to get to the point, which ultimately led them to stop reading. Some PR professionals, on the other hand, get too caught up in a pitch’s presentation. For example, one anchor shared an experience where he was sent a basketball along with a video game, however, he received no information about what the product actually was or why it was being sent to him. Instead of receiving airtime, the attempt now serves as an example of what not to do.
  • Incorporate Visuals. Morning shows love visuals. If you can tell your story visually, make sure to communicate that right away. In the past, we’ve side-stepped the traditional “talking-heads” approach by offering up a fun demonstration, performance or unique off-site interview location.

Cooking demonstrations are always a great visual that morning shows love! Shown here is a picture from Festa 2012.

  • Social Media. Follow key media contacts on Twitter to stay informed on what they’re talking about, future story ideas and as a way to personally connect with them. Media people, after all, are people too. J When asked if they use social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as a way to find stories, the answers were mixed, with an emphasis placed on using social media as a way to discover and enhance breaking news stories and connect with viewers.
  • Follow-Up. In some cases, the follow-up is just as important as the pitch itself. Most of the panel admitted to being buried on a daily basis with press releases and advisories – following up either over email or on the phone is a great way to make sure your story stands out from the pack. The follow-up is also your chance to add a fresh angle to a story that isn’t receiving traction.

Do you have any advice for successfully pitching local morning news and entertainment shows?

VA Takes on the PR + Social Media Summit

October 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

By: Casey Schaak

On Wednesday, October 10, a few of our VA team members spent the day at Marquette University taking a deeper dive into social media practices, policies and trends. The fourth annual PR + Social Media Summit was quiet the success, and the hashtag “#prsms” was even trending nationally on Twitter.

Here are some of the key takeaways from our #prsms experience:

Creativity is key. Content is king.

U.S. Olympian Nick Symmonds kicked off the summit with his own unique social media experience. He auctioned off his left shoulder on Ebay with the intention of displaying the winning company’s Twitter handle on the space during the 2012 Olympics. Hanson Dodge Creative, of Milwaukee, won the auction with a bid of $11,100. 

Nick’s experience showcased unconventional brand building. While the Olympic Committee required him to cover the temporary tattoo during his races, the buzz created around the auction led to free publicity for both Nick and Hanson Dodge. The auction and the tattoo increased awareness and Twitter followers for Nick and Hanson Dodge, and even shed light onto some controversial Olympic rules prohibiting Olympians from recognizing their individual sponsors before, during and after the games.

Balancing Work and Personal Life on Social Media

The Social Media Policy Panel, comprised of Erik Ugland, Diederich College of Communications, Mary Henige, General Motors Company, John Kalter, Godfrey & Kahn, William Caraher, College of Business Administration, and Eric Rumbaugh, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, focused on how companies handle employee social media interactions.

Each employer has its own social media culture. For GM, its policies require employees to be transparent and identify their role within the company when posting or commenting on the internet. They also must say that their opinions are their own, not those of GM, and employees are encouraged to link to approved GM content found on the GM website when necessary. A key legal take-away when it comes to a company’s social media liability is “put it in writing.” Employees are going to be on social media, so it’s important companies have guidelines.

Stand Up for Your Brand

Molly McKenna, McDonalds, presented “Sharing Your Brand Story: Breaking Through Today’s Cluttered World.” Her presentation focused on five social media truths:

  • Truth 1: People have perceptions about your brand.
  • Truth 2: Act of listening and responding can change your business.
  • Truth 3: You never know where the fire will come from.
  • Truth 4: Response can be more important than the situation.
  • Truth 5: We’re operating in a society of continuous partial attention.

McDonalds has learned to deal with negativity towards its stereotypically unhealthy and fried meal options by embracing its brand. Through social media, it creates an emotional brand connection along with authentic and transparent conversations with followers. In response to negativity regarding large soft drink sizes, McDonalds took the stance that the consumer makes his or her own choices. The company has developed a variety of menu options, and the consumer can choose which items and sizes he or she wants.

The Human Touch

Mary Henige, director of social media and digital marketing for GM, showed how GM is engaging with consumers and fans/followers by creating a personal side to the company. Instead of showing buildings and copy about the company, GM has created a video blog on its website that features different employees, showing their work life and personal life. The blog also highlights local owners and dealers. It takes the GM brand and gives it a human touch.

Additionally, the GM Facebook page features “Fan Friday.” Each Friday the page changes its banner photo to display a photo submitted by a fan. By adding a personal connection to its website and social media pages, GM paints a compelling story and engages with its fans on an emotional level.

What is Social Media and Why Should I Care About It?

Brian Moran, small business consultant, gave a compelling presentation on the importance of not just being on social media, but taking the time to do it right. Social media is a great tool for lead generation, customer service, market research, competitive analysis and PR, but if it’s not done right, it’s a waste of time and money.

Here are Brian’s 10 suggestions for social media users:


  • Tweet, retweet, reply
  • Be consistent
  • Avoid politics, religion and tweeting after midnight


  • Make connections
  • Give and get recommendations
  • Join groups
  • Ask questions; give answers


  • Use Google alerts
  • Engage with industry communities
  • Get employees involved, but make sure they know the rules

Social Media for PR

The News and Social Media Panel, with Kati Berg, Diederich College of Communications, Sharif Durhams, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathryn Janicek, NBC Chicago morning show, Andy Tarnoff,, and Herbert Lowe, Diedrich College of Communications, gave an inside look at the media’s perception and utilization of social media.

For traditional media reporters and anchors, social media is a conversation. It’s a way to connect with the community and extend and develop their on-air/on-paper personalities. Stories that are covered in print and broadcast can be expanded through social media and the public can engage with the news and join the conversation.

When it comes to relationships with PR, social media is a way to build relationships and set yourself apart amongst the many email pitches the media receives. Just as the social platform adds personality to reporters and anchors, it adds personality to PR pros as well. It is a unique way to find a common ground and connect – reporter/anchor to PR representative.

Winning the Social Media Race

Augie Ray, of Prudential, gave some great insight into the value of social media. By his definition, “social media is a medium where value is exchanged and relationships are created mutually.”

The winner in the social media race is not just the brand with the most fans, but the brand with the most fans having the most meaningful engagement.

As you can tell, every speaker and panel during the PR + Social Media Summit provided a wealth of insightful information. It was a great experience and we’re looking forward to attending the event again next year!

Divertimento alla Festa!

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

By: Casey Schaak

Ciao amici! This year, the Vollrath Associates team returned to Festa Italiana to offer our public relations expertise. The four-day festival and the weeks leading up to it were jam packed with press releases, alerts, media inquiries and opportunities, as well as some great coverage, if we do say so ourselves. While we were certainly busy with media relations and keeping Festa Facebook and Twitter followers in the know on the latest and greatest happenings, we all had an excellent experience at the event.

From enjoying delicious food, to spending time with the friendly and familiar faces of Festa and watching plenty of entertaining acts and spectacular fireworks, the 35th anniversary of Festa Italiana was a hit with team VA! Take a look at our highlights from the week:


From Italian dancers and musicians, to the Italian Idol contest, opera singers, a surprise country act and even a magic act, Festa provided excellent entertainment that appealed to audiences of all ages.


Phil Vassar was announced as the surprise country headliner for Festa during a special Spiked Island Beach Party at Bradford Beach. (From left to right) Dave Spano, president of Festa, Phil Vassar and Jessica.

Bill Jennaro, Festa board member, joined musicians Michael Castaldo and Frank Tenaglia on Fox 6’s Real Milwaukee with Tony Clark. They even showed off their impressive singing talents on air! (From left to right) Bill, Michael, Tony and Frank.

Team VA joined the fun as the audience danced to the Oldies but Goodies Spectacular on Friday night, after listening to the Ides of March. Phil (left) and Marilyn even whipped out some dance moves!


Of course, we all enjoyed arancini (rice balls) at various times throughout the weekend, as well as sfincione (Sicilian pizza), spinach stromboli and sfingi (Italian donuts). Gelato and vino were also crowd pleasers!

Tiffany Ogle (left), of Today’s TMJ4 Morning Blend, learns how to make pasta melanzani (eggplant) and spiedini with Dean Cannestra, chef and owner of Nessun Dorma and Libiamo restaurants.

CBS 58 caught the action of the cannoli-eating contest. Four-time winner Anthony Paulis took the title again this year, eating a total of 30 mini cannoli.

Bocce Ball

Pronounced “bo-chi” ball (not to be confused with the pronunciation “botch-y,” which means kiss in Italian), this fun and interactive game was available to festival-goers throughout the weekend, with a tournament on Sunday. Also check out the video here!

Prior to Festa, Andrea Anderson with the Journal Sentinel created a video tutorial on Bocce Ball, its history and the rules.


Team VA tried our hand at Bocce Ball. (From left to right) Jessica, Casey, Julie and John.

 For a deeper dive into all the Festa festivities and pictures from all four days, check out the Festa Italiana Facebook page!

Arrivederci until next year!

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