Event thrills wide variety of appetites

Activities scheduled for the festival's final day include a pasta-eating contest.
CANFIELD -- They loved the music. And the food.
And the dancing. And the food.
And the crafts and Italian heritage displays. And the food.
Mangia, mangia. It's not exactly the motto of the Greater Youngstown Italian Fest, but it's close. On Saturday at the Canfield Fairgrounds, they came for the food and stayed for the fun.
"We're eating our way through the festival," said Lina Leonard of East Liverpool, who came to the fairgrounds with her husband, Joe, and friends Alfred and Mary Fricaro.
"And I haven't gotten anything on me yet," Joe said.
Fun for everyone
From sausage and meatballs to several different varieties of pasta, Italian cookies and even funnel cakes and hot dogs, there was something for everybody at the 20th annual festival.
"My family's part Italian, so this is something we always did when I was growing up," said John Rappach of Boardman, sitting in some much-prized shade with Sara Llewellyn of Ashtabula.
"It's just nice to sit and relax, sit and eat," Rappach said. "The food and the weather are great."
And at several booths on the festival grounds, visitors could find souvenirs with an Italian flavor -- and some that smelled, but nice.
Darrin and Jackie Blasiman of New Waterford walked out with an apple-pie-scented bear.
"It's his first time here, and I'm here for the first time in a long time," Jackie said. "We thought it was a good way to spend a couple of hours and get some good Italian food."
A family affair
Festivalgoers of Italian descent could also explore their heritage in some interesting ways.
A steady stream of visitors came by the booth of Remo Faieta, owner of a Reynoldsburg company that helps people identify the hometowns of ancestors and arranges tours of Italy several times a year.
Teresa Sidoti of Niles found her home area of Reggio di Calabria in southern Italy on one of several detailed maps of the country and pointed out other places she remembered as Faieta talked about his business, Italian Heritage Tours. The booth has a shelf of telephone directories from Italian cities so that people can look up names of relatives -- or possible relatives.
"When you take someone over there, and they see a relative of theirs for the first time in their lives, it makes you cry," Faieta said.
Musical entertainment
And a variety of music was the backdrop for it all, from Nino Patete's accordion rendition of the Sinatras' "Something Stupid," to the big-band sounds of Carmen Mico and his orchestra -- and something that sounded like hip-hop with Italian lyrics on the sound system in between.
Lena Prima, daughter of the late jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Prima, was one of the headline acts Saturday night.
"We've had nice crowds," said Nick Modarelli, president of the Italian Heritage Foundation, which organizes the festival. It's in its 10th year at the fairgrounds.
"People have come, and they've stayed around. You can't beat the weather we've had."
The festival concludes today, starting with a 12:30 p.m. Mass on the festival's Roma Stage. The Lowellville Band will perform at 1:30 p.m., followed by a pasta-eating contest. A fireworks display is the closing event at 10:30 p.m.

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