By Denise Dick
What does it take to be crowned prince of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Italian Festival?
“I just had to say some stuff, like what my favorite sport was and if I had a girlfriend or not,” explained Jeffrey Howe, 9, of Liberty.
Jeffrey, who won the crown out of the eight boys age 4 to 9 who entered, was crowned Thursday. He’ll start fourth grade this fall at St. Rose School in Girard.
“I have to walk in parades and wear sash and crown for the four days” of the festival, Jeffrey said Saturday, dutifully wearing his crown as he and his sisters, Gianna and Gabriella — they’re triplets — moved from the dunk tank to the pony rides and other festival activities.
His reign will last until next year’s festival when he’ll help crown the new royalty.
The triplets are the children of Kimberly and Jeffrey Howe.
“I just asked him if he wanted to do it, and he said, ‘Sure,’” Kimberly said.
Jim Loboy, WYTV 33 morning news personality, led the questioning, and a panel of judges chose the winner based on personality and the boys’ answers. A festival princess also was crowned.
“After he won, he told me, ‘Now you have to treat me like a prince,’” Kimberly Howe said.
This marks the 16th annual festival for the church near downtown which was granted title of Minor Basilica in May by the Vatican.
Music, food, drink, games, a dunk tank, an auction and children’s amusements are among the activities.
Frank Frattaroli of Struthers is the lead organizer of this year’s event, which continues from 1 to 10 p.m. today. He’s been involved in the festival since the beginning and is a lifelong church member.
“I was baptized here, took First Communion here, confirmation and got married,” he said. “My parents were married here.”
He said Friday drew a record crowd estimated at about 5,000. Heavy rain when the festival opened Saturday threatened to put a damper on attendance, but the people kept coming, umbrellas in hand, some ducking under tents or into the buildings until the worst of the weather passed. It didn’t take long.
Frattaroli said the festival typically raises about $40,000 for the church and takes the work of 70 to 80 volunteers to pull off. A 40-member committee begins meeting in February preparing for that year’s annual fete.
One thing that distinguishes the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Italian Festival from other area Italian festivals is the adherence to Italian music, Frattaroli said.
The festival committee brings in acts from all over to preserve that tradition.