Our Daytonian of the Week has spent nearly two decades organizing one of the area’s most popular cultural festivals

Brian Andzik, organizer of the Italian Fall Festa, busy making Italian staples for this year's drive-thru event.
Brian Andzik, organizer of the Italian Fall Festa, busy making Italian staples for this year's drive-thru event.

Credit: Brian Andzik

Credit: Brian Andzik

For the past several months, our Daytonian of the Week has been working hard to ensure that one of the area’s most popular events went off without a hitch despite the restrictions created by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This past weekend, Brian Andzik, the organizer of the Italian Fall Festa, spent his time welcoming guests who flocked to the festival’s drive-thru event. As a long-time Dayton resident, Andzik wanted to create a familiar food-related escape for a community that he believes truly deserves a relaxing respite. And, according to Andzik, the monumental turnout from the community proved that this was just the sort of TLC that the people of Dayton needed.

“It was amazing,” said Andzik. We exceeded our own expectations, even though our expectations were sort of loose because we didn’t really know the baseline for this since we really invented this as we went along. I think it was just an unbelievable turnout. We couldn’t be happier."

On the heels of this great success, our Daytonian of the Week explains what it means for him to be a part of the Dayton community, and why a festival such as this one is so important to the community.

Tell us about your background. What has led you to this point in your career?

I was born and grew up in Kettering. I grew up in Kettering and went to school locally at Carroll High School, went to Wright State University and got an MBA from the University of Dayton. I became a member of the Sons of Italy about 28 years ago. And since that time, I have held leadership positions within the Sons of Italy and beyond. I’ve been involved with the Festa for 28 years. I was also the State President of the Sons of Italy recently and I became the Festa chair about 17 years ago.

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How do the Sons of Italy give back to the Dayton community?

We are involved with a number of charities that we support on the local, state and national levels — some through the Sons of Italy and some just through the community itself. Over the years, we have rotated through our support levels. We donate to House of Bread, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, Coaches against Cancer and many more. We award scholarships annually through our local and state Sons of Italy. We have two scholarship programs that we started — one at Wright State and another at the University of Dayton, through the Dayton Foundation. So, we’ll be making financial contributions to those organizations.

Then, in addition to that, we use our facility to host events for those organizations. So, we’ve got a just very generous, unbelievably hard-working membership here that cares about the community and cares about each other. We’re always getting involved in something. If somebody needs help, we’re there.

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You also co-founded the Club Oceano restaurant at The Greene? What inspired you to open your own restaurant?

Yeah, my two partners and I came up with that concept a couple of years ago. We’ve been open for one year now. I like food and hospitality and there’s just something inside me that wants to provide something for other people. It’s hard to explain, but I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from people having a good experience that I’ve had something to do with. One of the reasons that I was out in our drive-thru delivery area for most of the weekend at the Festa was to be able to talk to the people as they came through the parking lot. I wanted to see their faces and to hear about their experience.

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What projects/accomplishments (whether personal or professional) are you proud that you’ve accomplished?

I think being involved with the Festa for so many years, and seeing it evolve from what was already a great thing in the community to now something that I think is sort of a pillar in the area. I think it’s definitely an important event for people and there’s a lot of tradition here. So, upholding that is important. Also, becoming a president of the State Sons of Italy, that’s an accomplishment. I was a 40 under 40 recipient when I was under 40. And then just getting through life and education and just trying to be successful. I hold myself to pretty tough standards, and I’m very competitive. So I push myself pretty hard.

Are you personally involved in the Dayton community in any other ways?

I do get involved in other things. I sit on the boards of organizations. I’m involved in the Planned Giving Advisory Council at Wright State University. I’ve been involved in some student advisory boards over the years. I’m a member of the Knights of Columbus in Centerville, and I’m involved in some fundraising that happens there. I’ve also been involved in other community projects where maybe an organization or individuals are in need and we do something even outside of this organization. But, again, helping people has sort of always been my thing, sometimes maybe to a fault, but I do like to get involved in acts of kindness.

Brian Andzik is the organizer of the Italian Fall Festa.
Brian Andzik is the organizer of the Italian Fall Festa.

Credit: Brian Andzik

Credit: Brian Andzik

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?

I think the challenge really has just been this entire year. This has been an exceptional roller coaster ride since February, and going through a cycle of professional and personal emotions that not only are just what I’m thinking about, but what I’m watching family and friends go through. Watching the sadness and loss. But, then again, seeing the little glimpses of happiness like we saw this weekend [at the Italian Fall Festa] when people were just enjoying something normal. This is clearly the worst of anything that any of us have ever had to go through.

At the festival, we had a band play, and the singer, who is a friend of ours and a friend of the organization’s, travels around the world to festivals and other events. He was surprised that we were still holding the event. We are one of the few festivals to produce something this year. So, we feel proud of that. I can’t even count the number of comments and messages that I’ve received through Facebook that have just been touching and wonderful. We made a difference for a lot of people. We were out there in the sun, we were tired, we were exhausted, but the constant flow of kindness, the thank-yous and appreciation kept us going.

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What inspires you about Dayton?

Dayton is definitely a city that knows how to survive. Throughout its history, Dayton has had to overcome so much. I’m also inspired by the leadership of those times, and the innovation and the engineering, and the amazing people that have come from Dayton. I’m very proud of this city. Dayton has played a very significant part not just in the history of the Midwest, but the history of this country, and arguably, even other parts of the world because of the city’s engineering innovation. I’m a creature of habit in some ways, but also a person of loyalty and I think that there’s nothing wrong with being proud of where you came from. I think we are a great city with a tremendous amount of potential. We go through ups and downs, just like every other city, but it’s a great place to live.

What are your favorite places to grab a bite to eat in Dayton?

I have a few places that I love. I tend to gravitate toward independent businesses because I’m an independent business owner. I love The Oakwood Club — that’s definitely one of my favorite places. Sometimes I like to just get some chicken wings or a sandwich or something like that from one of the local places around the Bellbrook area, like McIntosh’s and other places that are sort of homegrown. I also like just hanging out and working around the grill with friends. There’s nothing better than getting a group of people together and having a backyard barbecue.