Biagi reunion draws large crowd

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Italian cousins couldn’t make it, but family members attended from all over U.S.

By Lisa King

“And I asked him why he came to America, and he said because he had always heard the streets were paved with gold!”


Achille Biagi drew applause as he concluded his narrative of stories about his father to a captive audience of more than 150 relatives who gathered Saturday in a spacious back yard on Magnolia Street for a family reunion in Shelbyville.

Achille was the coordinator of the event, which was as much of social phenomena in Shelbyville as it was a reunion.

The Biagi family has earned a prominent place in Shelbyville’s society over the past century, contributing a social patchwork through the community of decades and decades of engineers, photographers and entrepreneurs, including Main Street mainstay Biagi’s Appliances, the oldest continuously operating retail business in Shelbyville.

Achille Biagi said his father’s vision of America as the epitome of the land of opportunity was shared by most Italian immigrants at the time Annibale “Papa” Biagi came to America in 1913 at age 16, settling immediately in Shelbyville.

“But the true gold he found was in the relationships and friendships he made here,” Biagi said.

Stephen Biagi, owner of Biagi’s on Main Street, said that story was his personal favorite of those Achille told at the reunion.

“I was old enough to have known him [Annibale], but I don’t ever remember him telling that story, so that was special to me,” he said.

The Biagis had been planning their reunion as an international event, even corresponding with family members in other countries to see how many Biagis could come from all over the globe to celebrate 100 years of the establishment of the Biagi family in America.

As it turned out, the Italian members of the family who had planned to come couldn’t make it, although Achille Biagi said after his storytelling session that his son, Paul, who lives in Paris, France,  plans to visit soon.

Achille Biagi, who lives in Eddyville – which is located in Lyon County in the far western portion of the state near Paducah – had also drawn up a family tree diagram which he had set up under one of a series of huge tents that Greg Biagi had  set up in his back yard to accommodate the huge crowd and to protect them from a steady drizzle that did not dampen their enthusiasm as they dug into a veritable feast with dishes of every sort.

Achille Biagi chuckled as he watched his huge family dig in.

“He was Italian, but dad’s favorite meal was steak and potatoes,” he said.

Greg Biagi, a photographer, orchestrated a group shot of the entire gang, which he snapped from an upstairs balcony of the house.

He said that his house was chosen as the site of the reunion because it was where “Papa” had  first settled when he came to America and where three generations of Biagis have lived since then.

“This is also the one-hundredth anniversary of the house,”  he said.

Stephen Biagi said he really enjoyed visiting with relatives, many of them from out of state, coming from Louisiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Texas, Illinois and other places.

“It was great to see everyone,” he said.