Brier Hill Festival re-creates glory

YOUNGSTOWN — In an area that has an Italian festival almost every weekend of the summer, the Brier Hill Festival stands out. It’s the only one that actually takes place in an old Italian neighborhood.

“It’s a take-off on the San Gennaro Festival in New York City,” said Claire Maluso, festival co-chairwoman. The 11-day San Gennaro festival has been going on for 82 years in Little Italy, in Lower Manhattan, and is known worldwide.

Brier Hill, which is part of the North Side, scarcely resembles what it was in its heyday — a thriving, densely populated hillside neighborhood that was alive with the culture of the Italian immigrants who lived there.

But for one long weekend each year, Brier Hill re-creates its past glory. Former residents who have since been scattered across the country return each year for the event.

This year’s 18th annual festival will begin Thursday and run through Aug. 23, at Calvin and Victoria streets, which will be blocked off to traffic.

Gates open at 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday. The festival closes at midnight each night.

There will be a full schedule of Italian music and 14 food vendors.

Unlike most other Italian festivals in the area, there is no admission charge.

This year’s festival will honor the memory of one of its founders.

The late Dominic “Dee Dee” Modarelli will be honored as man of the year. A memorial plaque will be placed at the boccie court, said Maluso. Modarelli died in January at age 77.

“Dee Dee was Mr. Brier Hill all his life,” said Maluso. “It was his dream to hold the Brier Hill Festival, and he got to see the first 17.”

In 1991, Modarelli, Maluso and then-3rd Ward councilman Joe Naples started the festival, pulling it together in three weeks.

A bricklayer whose work went into many area homes, Modarelli was married to the former Rose Chiarello and they had five children. He created ITAM Post 12 on Brier Hill 39 years ago, and also owned The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake.


7-8:30 p.m.: John Gabriele 9-11 p.m.: Frank Gallo Orchestra


5:30-7 p.m.: Jim Frank Combo 7 p.m.: Opening ceremony 7:30-9 p.m.: Rocco Monaco Orchestra 9:30-11 p.m.: Rocky Chirchiglia Combo


Noon-2 p.m.: Paul Rossi Orchestra 3-4:30 p.m.: Frank Gallo Orchestra 5-6:30 p.m.: Rocco Monaco Orchestra 7-8:30 p.m.: Rocky Chirchiglia Orchestra 9-11 p.m.: Jim Frank Combo


10 a.m.: Lowellville Marching Band 10:30 a.m.: Mass 1:30-3 p.m.: John Gabriele 3:30-5 p.m.: Rocco Monaco Orchestra 5:30-7 p.m.: Rex Taneri Orchestra 7:30-9 p.m.: Frank Gallo Orchestra 9:30-11:30 p.m.: Dom Tocco and Brotherhood

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