NEW CASTLE Italian festival grows

A free children's area will include face painting, clowns and crafts.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- When it comes to organizing festivals, Marilyn Seech is becoming a real professional.
Files line Seech's desk for everything from food vendors to entertainment for the 2002 Lawrence County Italian Celebration.
The event, which was revived last year after a several-year hiatus, was so successful that planners extended it to two days -- June 22-23 at Cascade Park -- this year.
"We did so well last year. People just flocked to the park," Seech said.
Plans call for more food vendors, entertainers, crafters and a NASCAR display sponsored by Dodge. The automaker also is the event's major sponsor.
Seech said 4,500 people attended last year, and organizers hope to exceed 10,000 people this year.
Word about last year's festival has spurred calls from people from Struthers to Canada seeking information for the next one, she said.
Preliminary events
The festival committee is again having several events before the celebration to generate interest, including seeking Lawrence County's oldest Italian-American.
Filipina Memo, 104, who was honored last year, has since died, Seech said.
The committee also plans to crown an Italian princess. High school juniors and seniors will be judged on an essay of why their Italian heritage is important to them.
The success of last year's homemade wine-making contest and evening dance caused festival committee members to limit those who can attend each event to 500, she said. Advance tickets will be sold for both events, each planned for the evening of June 22, she said.
Dodge will bring replicas of its Intrepids driven by racers Bill Elliot and Jeremy Mayfield, said Dodge spokesman Richard Beazley.
People can also race miniature, remote-controlled NASCAR model cars on a 20-by-30 track and check out a number of Dodge-made vehicles, he said.
Opening ceremonies
The festival opens with a breakfast by the Ellwood City Wolves Club and opening ceremonies that include a Catholic Mass.
Entertainers from western Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio will perform both days and there will be traditional Italian games such as boccie and morra, a hand game played for points by two people.
Seech said they hope to attract young and old and will have a free play area for children sponsored by People's Bank of Western Pennsylvania.
The bank will give away a free mountain bike, and there will be face painting, clowns, puppets, crafts and other activities, she said.
The all-volunteer staff for the festival includes Seech and 22 people who head committees. There are numerous other volunteers, she said.
"The whole community has just embraced it," Seech said.

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