By Tim Yovich
The annual festival also provides scholarships.
WARREN — An organizer of the Warren Italian-American Heritage Festival says he’s hoping the 24th annual event will attract more than the 35,000 to 40,000 visitors it normally draws.
“It could be higher. We’ll take all we can get,” Phil Sidoti, of Warren, said Thursday just before the four-day event got under way at Courthouse Square.
Sitting in the beer tent, the retired steel worker said he knows that the weather will be an important factor in generating attendance, and he knows of only one way to influence it: “Pray for good weather,” Sidoti said.
The forecast is calling for the possibility of rain today and Saturday and a sunny Sunday. The daytime temperatures will be in the high 70s.
Sidoti helped organize the festival 24 years ago because he’s proud of his heritage.
“People should do anything they can to promote their heritage,” Sidoti asserted.
The event is more than Italians and non-Italians gathering as it supports five to seven $1,000 college scholarships given out annually. They will be awarded today during the 9 a.m. breakfast in the beer tent. Admission is $10 per person.
Not only are the organizers hoping for good weather, but the vendors are as well.
“It’s a wonderful festival,” commented Randy Rickard of Niles, who operates Pasquale’s World Famous Fat Daddy Sandwiches with his father, founder Pasquale Rickard who turned 80 today.
The weather is everything, Randy Rickard said.
Of the 30 events the sandwich maker works annually, Randy Rickard says he’s fond of the Warren Italian-American festival because it’s a community event and does a lot to foster a large part of the Italian heritage.
He pointed out that it’s also educational so children can learn about their ancestors.
Pasquale Rickard has been making sandwiches since he was given the recipe for homemade Italian sausage 58 years ago, his son explained.
During the festival, Randy Rickard estimates he will go through a ton of onions, 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of sausage and 1,000 pounds of lamb.
The sandwiches will go along with the 60 to 70 kegs of beer usually sold at the festival at $3 for a 16-ounce glass.
If wine is to your taste, you might stop off at Scarpaci’s Produce Co. tent operated by Kathy Scarpaci; her cousin, Joe Liberatore; and Keith Smith, all of the Warren area.
Scarpaci’s has been selling produce for more than 90 years at its wholesale and retail stores on Park Avenue.
Scarpaci said the decision to become involved in the festival was made in order to support the family’s Italian heritage.
Besides fresh produce at a reasonable price, visitors can purchase olive oils, pastas, wines and the equipment to make wine. Smith is in charge of the wine products such as juices and aging bottles.
“There are a lot of [younger] people starting up,” Smith said of the wine business.
“It’s becoming more of a hobby,” he added, noting that people don’t have to buy the grapes to make wine, thus grinders and presses are no longer needed.