Mount Carmel Society Festival begins 119th year

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Barbara and Kurt Kamensky were ready, lawn chairs set up on the pavement, a full two hours before the Mount Carmel Society Band was to take the stage Wednesday evening.

“We’re here beating the crowd,” said Barbara, a lifelong Lowellville resident and a member of the Mount Carmel Society Ladies Auxiliary.

For Barbara, the Mount Carmel Society Band and its nightly performances at the Mount Carmel Society Festival, which opened its 119th year at 6 p.m. Wednesday, aren’t just village tradition — they’re also family tradition. Her father, Venanzio “Bananas” Iudiciani, joined the band at age 9, just a couple of years after its founding in 1927 by another Italian immigrant, and stayed with it as a member and a manager until his death in 2006 at age 86.

It means a lot that the band has continued, Barbara said, especially because of how much that tradition meant to her father. Today, the band is even stronger than ever, she added.

The Mount Carmel Society Band will perform also during the Baby Doll Dance, which will take place at 11 p.m. today and Friday. Fireworks will start at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

But the music isn’t the only part of the Mount Carmel Society Festival that draws Barbara in each year. As a child, she most looked forward to the rides and games. Now, as an adult, she eagerly anticipates the celebrations for the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which always take place July 16, and the famous Baby Doll Dance, to name just two.

Barbara also enjoys the veritable reunion that is the annual festival, and explained that even if she were to move away from Lowellville, she would always, God willing, return home for the four-day event.

“It’s nice to see people come back to their hometown,” she said. “I could not miss a year. I really couldn’t.”

Kurt, her husband, added that he loves the food, particularly the cavatelli, along with the fact that his home’s kitchen is “closed all week.” This year’s festival runs through Saturday.

Also at the festival Wednesday were Irma Carchedi and Dee Donofrio, members of the ladies auxiliary since 1942 and 1972, respectively. The two were selling religious candles, the proceeds of which would go to Holy Rosary Church.

Carchedi recalled the festival’s humble beginnings, when outside vendors didn’t come in. Instead, residents of the single street the festival took place on — today’s festival is considerably larger — would make their own sausage, fried dough and pizza for the celebration. She added that her uncle, Pietro Pirone, founded the Mount Carmel Society in 1895.

Donofrio added that a lot of people would be disappointed if the society or the festival ever ceased to exist — a thought later echoed by Bella Panici, Carchedi’s daughter. She started to tear up when describing how much the festival means to her, to her family and to numerous other past and present residents of Lowellville.

“It makes us think of our ancestors,” Panici said. “It will continue. One hundred and nineteen years is a long time.”

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