Italian fest returning today to Warren’s downtown ‘piazza’

Some new attractions and the return of its finale will be part of the 34th Warren Italian-American Festival opening today.

President Carol Ficeti said they’ve expanded offerings in the culture tent. A breadmaking demonstration is planned on Friday, a genealogy program is scheduled on Saturday and Peter D’Attoma of DaVinci Custom Travel will discuss hot spots and answer questions about traveling to Italy.

The festival also will end with a bang once again by bringing back fireworks display at 10:45 p.m. Sunday.

“There were a couple years with rain and we lost money, so we decided not to have them,” Ficeti said. “People were asking about it and we said, ‘If you want to have them, we’ll have them,’ so membership voted to bring them back.”

Also returning are the gladiator battles on Sunday afternoon.

“A lot of people on our Facebook page asked about them,” Ficeti said. “I think a lot enjoyed them.”

Italian cookies, cannoli and tiramisu will be available in the cookie tent. Antone’s will be selling smelts, calamari, greens and other Italian favorites, Ficeti said, and there will be the usual assortment of fair-style food vendors.

One thing that isn’t changing for the 34th edition is the location. After talk of moving the festival to the Eastwood Mall complex in Niles, board members decided to stay put at Courthouse Square.

“With the Courthouse in the background and all the trees, it looks like a piazza in Italy, like the town square where everything is happening. Plus, it originated in Warren. Most said it originated in Warren, keep it in Warren.”

The festival opens at 4 p.m. today, and main stage events include the Tiny King & Queen Pageant and the Miss Warren Italian Festival Pageant.

The kick off breakfast starts at 9:30 a.m. Friday at The Hippodrome (tickets are $14 and available by calling Ficeti at 330-507-3567). Returning to the main stage Friday will be Lights Out, a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Main stage entertainment on Saturday and Sunday will include Mirella the Musician and vocalists Graziana and Aaron Caruso. Graziana and Caruso both have played the festival several times, but this will be the first year that, in addition to doing their own sets, that the vocalists will partner for a duet, Ficeti said.