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A TASTE OF ITALY Warren’s Italian American Heritage Festival has it all: Food, family & fun



Published: Fri, August 10, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

The rain failed to put a damper on the festival’s first day.

By MAYSOON ABDELRASUL

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

OADS IN WARREN ARE BLOCKED OFF. Police circle the perimeter. People walk by to see what is happening.

No trouble. It turns out there is a festival in town. The Warren Italian American Heritage Festival kicked off Thursday at 6 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

During the day, the vendors were finishing setting up when the sky got dark, and shortly after the rain came pouring down. Some of the 80 or so vendors, like Kathy Scarpaci, stayed dry.

She was under a tent setting up produce and various spaghetti products. She said it is her third year at the festival, and she is giving out free samples of wine to people who are interested in making their own homemade wine.

During the rain, many people sought shelter under the beer tent. Since the fair didn’t open officially until 6 p.m., there was no alcohol served during the day.

Mayor Mike O’Brien, who was under the tent’s protection, said he has been watching the weather forecast and it looks good for this weekend. He said he doesn’t think the rain will stop people from coming to the festival.

“The festival is on everyone’s calendar in the city,” he said.

It has been a success for the past 22 years and he said he doesn’t think that will change this year.

“Anytime that we can bring 75,000 to 80,000 people in the downtown square for the weekend is great for everyone involved,” he added.

David Mazzochi, the city’s maintenance superintendent in the operations development, said he can remember the first year of the festival when its founder Lou Meter was in charge.

“It was a success from Day One,” he said.

Preparations

He said his department starts work at the festival the night before by blocking off all the roads. He helps the vendors with all the electrical connections they need to run their stands properly.

Since it’s the same vendors every year, for the most part, “everyone knows what their jobs are, and we all work together as a team, and that’s what makes it easy,” he said.

It’s not about people doing their jobs that makes it fun, he said — it’s about seeing all the people gather in one place. “It’s just a fun thing to do.”

With all those people in Courthouse Square, sometimes things can get out of control. The police department is there to make sure things don’t go wrong.

Sgt. Rob Massucci said that every festival has its problems but that the police are there to take care of things.

In the past, there have been problems such as juveniles congregating and stirring up trouble at night. There are more police at the festival during the evening as opposed to the daytime.

Making presence known

Officer Greg Hoso said he has been working the fair for 10 years. He said he enjoys seeing all the people and the people like seeing officers there, too.

“A lot of the older folks like to see police officers walking,” he said. “We walk around for visibility.”

The mayor said it is a family festival, and he plans on bringing his family out this weekend to check out all the rides, games and food.

The festival committee is asking for a $3 donation at the entrance to help pay some expenses. The event continues through Sunday.


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