SOUTHINGTON – Food, fireworks, music and more is in store for the 14th annual Italian American Festival, returning to lower Center Street July 27 to July 29.
The festival, sponsored by three local Italian clubs - Sons of Italy, UNICO and Sorelle D’Italia, will be held from 5 to 11 p.m. July 27, 1 to 11 p.m. July 28 and noon to 6 p.m. July 29. The street will be lined with Italian flags and booths for vendors selling crafts and local restaurants selling a variety of foods. After visitors pick out something to eat, they’ll be able to sit down under a shaded tent area, or at an outdoor dining patio for local restaurants, and enjoy hours of live music and entertainment. There will also be a dance area in front of the event stage and a children’s carnival and activities.
“Last year the number of people who came to the festival was unbelievable,” said Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, a UNICO member. “The weather cooperated and it was absolutely packed all weekend to the point where UNICO ran out of its popular sausage and pepper grinders. This festival, which seems to emulate the true street festivals that still take place to this day in parts of Italy, is a celebration of Italian customs and it has also become an economic driver for the Town of Southington. We bring in lots of visitors from other communities. Not every community can say that it has its own street festival.”
On Friday July 27, entertainment will include Salvo DeMartino, from Naples, Italy, Tio Ricciadella, from New York, Marcello Sparagna from Hartford and a traditional Italian dance with the famous Italian character “Pulcinella”, organized by Sorelle D’Italia.
“Having an Italian singer will be a huge draw,” said Miceli. “People have been telling us for years that this is what they want to see.”
Opening ceremonies will begin Friday at 7 p.m. and a fireworks show will be held at 9 p.m. with a rain date of Saturday.
“This is the first time that we’ve had fireworks in the festival’s 14 year history,” said Miceli. “Our town normally has them only during the Apple Harvest Festival. They will be going off from the Dog Park, just like during the Apple Harvest Festival.”
“We will be going all out on the fireworks show,” said David Zoni, a UNICO member.
The fireworks show is made possible this year thanks to the generous donations of two local families, the Fragola Family, which owns Fragola Performance Systems, and the Votino Family, which owns the CV Tool Company.
On Saturday July 28, featured entertainers will be DeMartino, the Sam Vincent Quintet, an Italian/jazz band from Middletown, Charley Tiernan from New Haven, Michael Ciulla from Essex and Bob Luparello, an Italian-American comedian from New York.
“Having an Italian comedian will be a nice addition,” said Miceli. “This is something we’ve wanted to have for years.”
There will also be a Tai Quan Do demonstration and a homemade wine tasting contest Saturday.
The Italian-American Festival Committee of Southington and a grape distributor, Northeast Produce from Hartford will host the 11th homemade wine (grape only) contest. There is no entry fee. Participants may enter more than one bottle of wine as long as it is a different make of wine or year. It can be either red or white. The red and white wine will be judged separately. Friday, July 20 is the last day to enter the contest. Wine will be judged on July 28 at the festival site at 2 p.m., where the winners will be announced. Winners need not be present.
Bottles can be dropped off at: Northeast Produce Regional Market or 10 Robert Jackson Way, Plainville during the week from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fancy Bagels on Queen Street or on Scott Swamp Road from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For additional information on the wine contest, contact Tony Cusano at 860-681-3451, Luigi Barbato at 860-628-2241, Matthew Lopreiato at 860-302-8314 or Tony Perone at 203-235-2703 during the day.
On Sunday July 29, Antonio Venditti and the Ambrosiani Band, an Italian band from Providence, R.I. will perform. A traditional Italian Mass will be held at 10 a.m., followed by the procession of the Madonna della Strada statue.
“There are always hundreds of people participating,” said Miceli.
Zoni said that the Italian American Festival represents the mission of the town’s three Italian clubs to promote Italian heritage.
“We have a large Italian community in Southington and during the Italian Festival weekend, everybody becomes Italian,” said Zoni.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.