The festival will feature traditional games.
By JENNINE ZELEZNIK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Every culture makes its own distinctive music: the drums of Africa, the bagpipes of the Celts, the crooning of those passionate Italians.
How better to celebrate that Mediterranean heritage than to feature those singers in next weekend's Italian-American Heritage Festival?
The 17th annual event will feature music by Tony Spavone, headliner Gene Ferrari, Expresso "5" and Graziana Lazzara, among other musicians.
The 19-year-old Lazzara is coming from Italy to perform, said Carol Ficeti, president of the Warren Festival Committee. Practically all of her songs are in Italian.
"She has a beautiful voice," Ficeti said.
But the cultural celebration doesn't end with the music.
Games: Weekend-long tournaments of traditional Italian games, such as boccie and morra, offer local teams a chance to compete for prizes. The boccie tournament starts at 5 p.m. Friday and continues through Sunday.
"[The players] really get into it," Ficeti said. Players' ages range from 18 to 70, chimed in Phil Sidoti, vice president of the committee.
The morra tournament is at 2 p.m. Saturday. "It's a wonderful celebration of our heritage," Ficeti said.
Pageants: Also on the ticket are pageants -- Tiny Queen and King and the Miss Italian pageant.
Sidoti said the Tiny Queen and King contest is for kids ages 3 to 5 living in Trumbull or adjacent counties. The winners get to ride in Sunday afternoon's parade.
The Miss Italian pageant is for women ages 15 to 22 of Italian descent. They are judged on their poise, evening gowns and speeches, Ficeti said.
The winner receives a $1,000 scholarship from Lou Metter Jr., whose father arranged the first Italian festival in Warren.
Edibles: And then there's the food. From pasta and pizzelle demonstrations to the wine-tasting competition, palate-pleasers are an integral part of every year's festival.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, area winemakers can submit their homemade potables for judging in the red, white and ros & eacute; categories.
There's also the Pizza Splash Run, which combines food and exercise. The 3.1-mile race starts at 7 p.m. Friday, with pizza for all runners afterwards, Sidoti said.
William Snyder of Warren, who has attended the festival for years, was making signs for this year's event.
"The festival really puts a good light on Italian-Americans," said Snyder, whose wife is Italian.
"I think when a lot of people think Italian-Americans, they think Sopranos, but that's not a fair image. This is a beneficial festival for the community, and a good family outing."