PALM COAST, Fla. (October 16, 2023) – Rich with cultural heritage, Flagler County residents have been celebrating the melting pot that is this community since the first days of the Palm Coast International Festival in 1979. Recognizing the deep roots of cultural history that form the foundation of the growing community, the City of Palm Coast acknowledges the many clubs and organizations that are home to generations, including the Italian American Social Club of Palm Coast.

On Saturday evening, Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin presented Italian American Social Club of Palm Coast President Colette Kraemer with a proclamation in honor of Italian American Heritage Month, during their celebratory dinner and dance.

The recognition is important for Kraemer, who after six years of service, is leaving a legacy of her own.

Ushering the organization through COVID, she is proud of being able to keep the club’s employees working through the pandemic while still serving members and overseeing major interior and exterior projects for the club.

“We were lucky to stay open during COVID. We had meals to go on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I would sit up here and take orders with another lady. My husband would be out there. We kept everybody working except the bartenders because we couldn’t let people in,” she said. “It makes me very proud.”

Taylor Kraemer sees her grandmother as a role model for her work ethic and commitment to the club.

“I not just saying this because she’s my grandmother, but in my opinion, she has been the best president we’ve had. She’s done a lot for this club,” shared Taylor.

More like family than friends, the club provides a place to celebrate their Italian heritage, raise up the next generation of youth, and contribute back to the community they have grown to love and call home.

“We’re all a family,” said Kraemer. “It’s just amazing.”

One of those contributions to the community came Saturday evening.

Right Place, Right Time

“It all started because of her hair. I think she is stunning, and I said I love your hair,” shared mom Sonia Pagan Lopez of the chance meeting. “As soon as she opened her mouth I was like, where are you from?”

IASC club member Roe Barletta just happened to be at the right place at exactly the right time, and in conversation she and Lopez hit it off.

Lopez shared her mission of helping her daughter fundraise the required $2,200 per student for a trip the Matanzas High School choral group will take in January 2024 to Carnegie Hall in New York to perform.

Inspired, Barletta offered to help and invited the students to sing at the Italian American Social Club for the organization’s heritage month dinner, knowing the club would offer up a donation to help the students.

Welcome to the Club

Asked to sing the Italian National Anthem, Lopez and her classmates worked hard to prepare for the IASC appearance.

She hopes the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall will help propel her to Belmont University or Rollins College after graduation.

“I find this a major honor. Seeing everyone’s face and how theater makes people feel and really just performing in general, how that makes people that are performing and watching, makes them feel, there’s really nothing like it. That’s what got me so invested in it that I want to pursue it as a career,” she said.

Accompanied by Matanzas High School choral director Jens Oliva and a dozen other students, the performance drew rousing applause from the nearly 200 guests in attendance.

Oliva said he was thrilled for the students to receive an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall and for the local community to help support their dream.

“They’re celebrating their 40th anniversary and wanted us to perform John Rutter’s ‘Magnificat’ conducted by John Rutter himself. It’s a neat experience. They’re learning some quality music, they’re going to be singing with a live orchestra, and we’re going to New York and sing at Carnegie Hall,” said Oliva.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow  

Jane Aulicino, chair of the IASC Heritage Committee, smiled as she heard the students warming up ahead of their performance.

“We like to celebrate Columbus Day in October since October is Italian Heritage Month. In order to do that we do it with music and food and celebration. Years ago, we got a proclamation when we marched around here in a parade. We have young people on their way to Carnegie Hall that are singing Italian arias, and the Italian National Anthem, and our food is very Italian food the Heritage Committee spent two days making,” she said.

“It’s very important to us. We try very hard to introduce our customs to the young people.”

Presenting the proclamation Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin invited the students to visit City Hall after their return for a public congratulations.

“Tonight is about the community coming together, working together, and helping our youth get ahead,” said Alfin.