CANFIELD That's Italian -- festival opens

The Italian Fest has something for almost everyone.
CANFIELD -- A celebration of Italian heritage, complete with Italian food and music and activities for children, makes the 17th annual Greater Youngstown Italian Fest popular with local families and those making a homecoming to the Mahoning Valley.
"Most of these stands are from the Canfield Fair. They've got a good reputation," for quality food, said Linda Crump, who grew up in Canfield, but now lives in Palm Bay, Fla. Crump was here with her husband, Richard; son, Dusty, 15; nephew, Scott Hoffman, 4, and niece, Stephanie Hoffman, 6, both of Orlando, Fla., to visit her parents, Harry and Marge Pancher of Canfield. All attended the festival Thursday.
Celebrating heritage
"I was raised Italian. My dad's full-blooded Italian. For me, it's heritage," said David Pecchia of Boardman, who has regularly attended the festival since its founding, and who attended Thursday with his wife, Faye, and twin sons David and Dante, 31/2. "I come here for Italian food. I'd eat Italian food every single day and every single meal if I could," Pecchia said.
The festival features "a good variety of Italian food, pastas and sausage sandwiches," his wife said.
"The heritage, the food, the entertainment," were reasons for attending cited by Tony Masello of Boardman, who appeared with his wife, Kathy, and sons, Marcus, 6, and Anthony, 14, and his father-in-law, Gordon Baroni, of Jacksonville, Fla. Marcus said he enjoyed the food, music and children's rides.
Continues through Sunday
The festival, which opened Thursday, continues daily through Sunday at the Canfield Fairgrounds, opening at 3:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. Sunday, and closing nightly at 11 p.m.
"We always try to have something for all ages," said Flora DiRenzo Schneider of North Lima, the festival's publicity chairwoman.
Entertainment will be on a temporary stage, in the grandstand and in a dance tent. This evening will feature Elvis Lives (an Elvis impersonator who happens to be Italian) from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. and Magic Moments (an Italian oldies group from Pittsburgh) from 9 to 11 p.m.
Featured from 4:30 to 7 p.m Saturday will be the Cavalieri Reale Band -- a popular Italian American dance and show band from Cleveland, which has recorded five albums.
Dominic Chianese -- Uncle Junior from "The Sopranos," a singer and actor who plays the mandolin and banjo, will perform in the grandstand at 8 p.m. Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $5, and parking is free. Children under 12 are admitted free. General admission to Saturday and Sunday evening grandstand shows is $10.
The festival will feature Sunday Mass at 12:15 p.m., followed by a procession with The Madonna, which will include retired auxiliary Bishop Benedict Franzetta and local Italian priests and deacons, together with a performance by the Lowellville Band.
Most children's activities will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Children's activities include a climbing wall, puppet show, train ride, face-painting, pony rides and inflatable rides, including a slide.
A new baked product, called The Mot-sa Pie, featuring a dough made from corn and corn meal with layered mozzarella cheese, will be test-marketed at the DiRusso's Sausage stand.
Contest winner
On Thursday evening, Jessica Nichole Mulichak, 19, of Boardman, won the Miss Greater Youngstown Italian Fest beauty and talent contest, which enrolled 12 contestants, and she will receive a $500 U.S. Savings Bond.
Mulichak graduated this year from Boardman High School, where she was co-president of the Italian Honor Society -- an academic honor society for students of Italian language and history.
The first runner-up was Dayna Renee Despetorich, 17, of Boardman, a student at Boardman High School. The second runner-up was Vanessa Gemma Ferranto, 20, of Poland, a 2000 graduate of Poland Seminary High School who attends Kent State University. Each runner-up will receive a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.

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