Canada History Week Day 7: Hylo and Venice

A gambling term from an old card game and the birth province of composer Antonio Vivaldi. What could the two possibly have in common for Alberta’s history? The answer lies within our region. These were the namesakes of two of our communities, Hylo and Venice. They were part of the first Italian colony in Western Canada, initiated in 1914 by the Italian Society of Edmonton.

Venice Picnic
Venice Picnic (Year Unknown)

The first group of settlers left Edmonton on July 27, 1914. The party of six men included president O.J. Biollo, Felice De Angelis, Pio Bonifacio, Antonio Piemonte, Theophile Piemonte, and Benjamino Maragno who scouted the land beside Hylo which was not yet accessible by train. In August, a double party of Northern and Southern Italians headed by Antonio Piemonte and Joseph Baldoni set out to homestead the land. Baldoni secured a lot in Hylo and Piemonte settled in Venice. The following years saw a large influx of immigrants from Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and French backgrounds.

Hylo began as station on the Alberta and Great Waterways line in 1914.  The most popular origin story of its name mentions the A & GW Railway workers naming the land after a card game. The game itself gained popularity in North America following the flood of immigrants from Europe during the 20th century. The community was originally going to be called Trieste, after the birthplace of one of the settlers.

Venice, on the other hand, was named for the birth province of settler O.J. Biollo in the fall of 1916. Although for many the word Venice is associated with the city of gondolas and elaborate masks, our community has distinct visions of chicken cacciatore and baseball.

The famous Venice Picnic began in the summer of 1927 to celebrate the construction of their community hall. At the original picnic there were games, chicken, macaroni, seven barrels of beer, and a dance to round up the festivities. These traditions are still mostly kept to this day, uniting the surrounding communities in laughter and fellowship.

"Leaving For A Different Kind Of 'Front'", The Edmonton Capital, August 28, 1914
“Leaving For A Different Kind Of ‘Front'”, The Edmonton Capital, August 28, 1914