Families revel in shared heritage

The three-day event, which continues today, draws about 50,000 visitors annually.
WARREN -- Morra, the Italian game, is a family tradition for the Hambach family of Warren.
Family members use morra, the loud Italian cousin of the hand gesture game "Rock, Paper, Scissors," to decide everything from who gets the bathroom first to who has better hair.
Jimmie Hambach, his brother Bob, and Bob's 18-year-old son, Matt, added to the family tradition Saturday by playing in the morra tournament at the annual Italian-American Heritage Festival in Courthouse Square.
During the game, two players each throw down between one and five fingers and then yell the Italian number they think will be the sum of both players' fingers. They continue to throw fingers and yell until one of the players wins by yelling the correct sum.
The Hambachs were part of a team sponsored by MTS Painting that won the morra tournament, and received the top prize, a trophy.
"But really it's about nothing but bragging rights," Hambach said, noting that his team owns those rights until they come back to defend them next year.
Having fun
The Hambachs weren't the only people setting records. Warren resident Sharon Andrews became the first woman to compete in the morra tournament.
Her fianc & eacute;, Norman Thomas, who taught the 23-year-old to play the game and count in Italian, competed on a different team than Andrews. Thomas wasn't present when his team beat Andrews' team during the competition, but the two staged an informal match later in the day -- and Andrews won.
Thomas said he regretted only that his team didn't have a spot for his fianc & eacute;. A kiss after the showdown showed the couple had no hard feelings, but they had yet to face each other on separate teams in the boccie tournament. The couple promised the festival was all about having fun and said there would be no hard feelings at the day's end.
Promoting tradition
The morra and boccie tournaments reflect the festival's objective by promoting Italian traditions and involving multiple generations of each family, boccie chairman Lee DeJacimo said.
These are two of the few games where younger and older family members can compete on the same playing field, he said.
Phil Sidoti, president of the festival's board, said he thinks the festival is a way to give a little of his past to his younger family members and other children.
"I'd like to continue on the heritage for our youth," he said. "I'm proud of my Italian heritage."
Andrews expressed similar sentiments, saying that she and Thomas had already taught their 6-year-old daughter, Mira, to count in Italian and play the game.
Other events throughout the weekend include cooking displays, a wine-tasting competition, children's activities, various cultural displays and entertainment.
Sidoti said attendance Friday was higher than the same day in past years, though he expects it to remain near the annual average of about 50,000. The festival continues through today.

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