ITALIAN-AMERICANS Warren heritage festival draws crowds, memories
Italians from all over come to celebrate their heritage with food, fun and music.
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- We're Italian and proud of it!
The 20th anniversary Warren Italian-American Heritage Festival kicked off its three-day run Friday with breakfast at the Hippodrome Banquet Center attended by more than 150 people.
Six $1000 scholarships, funded by the Italian-American Heritage Festival and the 300 Club, were given out based on the grades and need of Italian students.
Recipients were Maria Angelo, Allison Sferra, Natalie Jones and Nicole Wayt, all of Warren, Danielle Butto of Niles and Maria Maggio of Howland.
Dom Rosselli, former Youngstown State University coach, was the guest speaker at the breakfast.
He welcomed "all those who are Italian and all those who wish they were" to the breakfast.
The Italian-American Heritage Festival was founded in 1985 by Lou Metter and has continued to grow with time.
"In the past 20 years, the festival has gotten bigger," said Phil Sidoti, president of the Italian-American Heritage Festival Board of Trustees. "There are more vendors, the pasta tent has grown, and there is a bocce tournament with 24 teams instead of just playing."
Delores Procopio, vice president of the festival trustee board, said the event is one of the top festivals in the area.
"Last year's attendance included visitors from around the U.S.A. and Canada and also a few from Italy," Procopio said. Most of the attendees are local residents.
"This is an incredible event that brings together the strongest ethnic community in Trumbull County," said state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd.
The festival stresses that it is important to celebrate one's heritage.
"Me, personally, I am proud of my Italian heritage," Sidoti said. "That is why people come."
Arlene Frasca of Niles has been to the festival every year since it began.
"It's the highlight of the year," she said. "Especially when you speak Italian."
Frasca, whose grandmother came to the United States from Viesta Forge in Italy to make a home for her family, grew up speaking Italian.
"My favorite part of the festival is seeing all my old friends," she said. "I like listening to the music and speaking Italian with my grandmother's friends."
Of course, you don't have to be Italian to come out and enjoy the festivities, which continue in downtown Warren through Sunday.
"It makes us all feel a little bit Italian for a couple of days," Dann said.