Italians will celebrate their Minnesota presence this weekendWhen John Baptiste Zignego came to the Red Wing area in 1869, there were no guarantees that his farm would remain in the family after he died.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
When John Baptiste Zignego came to the Red Wing area in 1869, there were no guarantees that his farm would remain in the family after he died.
But it did nonetheless.
Zignego planted Italian roots in Hay Creek. His second son, Joseph, inherited the farm, and one day sold it to his own son, Bob Zignego.
Bob was the last Zignego to own the family’s land, and he didn’t finish farming it until 1993 — nearly 125 years after his grandfather began.
“One thing I’m thankful for is farming was good to us,” Bob recalled.
He was raised on the Zignego farm from the day he was born. Even after finding his bride, Rita, Bob continued to remain on the land, which held two houses.
Bob’s parents occupied the main home, while Bob and Rita began their life together in the second home. When the couple purchased the farm from Bob’s parents in the mid-1960s they got comfortable in Bob’s childhood home.
“We traded houses,” Rita said.
Aside from moving between homes on the same property, Bob said he never had to realize what it was like to pack up and move. Staying in one place for so many years wasn’t a decision he or his wife regret.
“This is where your livelihood was,” Rita said.
“You didn’t have anything in mind other than farming,” she added.
It wasn’t until 1993 that the couple gave up farming, and nearly 10 years afterward that they gave up life on the farm altogether. Their first real move came in 2002 — although it didn’t take them far from home.
Bob and Rita hauled their belongings about two miles west when they decided it would be easier to maintain a townhouse in the middle of Red Wing rather than a country house on the outskirts.
Bob has two sisters who live in Red Wing. Also, Bob and Rita’s daughter lives in Hastings, where Rita grew up and where much of her family resides, so remaining in the area was a no-brainer for the couple.
“It gives us the opportunity to be together a lot,” Bob said.
Quality family time is something the Zignegos know well.
“Everybody was close in our ancestry,” Bob added.
Another Italian arrives
Just 10 years after John Baptiste Zignego arrived in southeastern Minnesota, another family of Italian farmers was settling into the area as well.
Anthony Perrotti, a native of Cantoira, Italy, came to the state in 1879 to farm in Wells Creek. Many of his descendants now reside in Mazeppa just barely outside the border of Goodhue County.
Both the Zignego and the Perrotti families will be recognized for their long-standing presence in Minnesota during a festival in the Twin Cities next weekend.
Festa Italiana 2012 is a two-day event that showcases Italian food, music and cultural displays. It runs from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday Sept. 21 and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday Sept. 22 on St. Paul’s Harriet Island.