By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Lou DeVicchio loves to attend festivals for the attractions, games and food, but those take a back seat to his No. 1 reason: seeing displays of symbols of ethnic traditions and customs.
Too often, many young people don't understand or appreciate their ancestors' heritage and traditions, he said, and it's important to give them an opportunity to value such symbols.
"Many ethnic people brought their work ethic and talents and contributed to this country," said DeVicchio, 63, a lifelong member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Youngstown's North Side. "They made America great. That's what keeps America vibrant."
DeVicchio was on hand Sunday at the seventh annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Italian Festival. The four-day event began Thursday and featured food, games, music, an Italian auction, a raffle and a Chuck-a-Luck casino. Compact discs and DVDs featuring Italian performers were for sale.
DeVicchio said he visits about six to seven festivals each year and also enjoys talking to older people about their heritage. Children "should talk to their grandparents to find out where they came from," he said.
Joyce Frattaroli, the festival's secretary, said she enjoyed the camaraderie that takes place between people who haven't seen each other for in awhile. The festival brings members of the church together who otherwise rarely see each other, she added.
A strong turnout
Despite a Sunday forecast that called for the possibility of severe weather, blue skies greeted the hundreds of people who filled the church's hall or strolled outside.
Many enjoyed the food and entertainment; others were content to try their hand at a prize wheel at which tickets for Youngstown State University football games and other items were won. Some simply walked around and took in music by Ron Fiortino, the lead singer of the 1960s group The Four Coins, or listened to John Gabriele's quartet in the social hall.
Among the festival's prizes were two $1,000 scholarships to YSU. The event also supported the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a recipient of some of the proceeds.
Tony Trolio, the festival's founder and chairman, said the event has grown in attendance each year. More than 10,000 people attended last year's festival, which raised around $25,000 for the church, he said. Trolio estimated 15,000 would come this year.
Trolio, a 14-year member of Our Lady and owner of Trolio's Original T-shirts of Poland, said the festival's main purposes are to preserve Italian-American heritage and culture, help the church and promote downtown Youngstown as a safe place.
Trolio praised the 50-member festival committee for helping with the event. He said that it's important to have the family-oriented festival in Youngstown to bring people in the city and suburbs together and to promote some of the city's positive aspects.
"We're doing our part to bring people downtown," Trolio said. "Youngstown, we can't let it die; we're all part of Youngstown."