Festival supporters rally

Want to keep Italian-American event in Warren

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Thomas Angelo of Warren, far right, speaks at a rally Tuesday in Courthouse Square to keep the Italian-American Festival in downtown Warren. A proposal has been made to move the festival to the Eastwood Mall in Niles.

WARREN — About 30 supporters of the Warren Italian American Festival rallied in Courthouse Square Tuesday afternoon to let members of the festival’s committee know there is support for it to remain in the city’s downtown.

Members of the Italian-American Festival committee are expected to attend a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the community room at the Eastwood Mall, at which representatives of the Cafaro Co. will make a presentation about moving the 33-year-old festival from Courthouse Square to the mall’s property.

After hearing the presentation, committee members will be able to voice whether they want to explore the opportunity to move.

Warren’s Italian-American Festival committee board was contacted by the Cafaro Co. about moving it to Niles. The 34th annual festival is scheduled to take place Aug. 9 to 12 on Courthouse Square.

Thomas Angelo, a supporter of the Italian American Festival, Warren Councilman Ken MacPherson, D-5th Ward, and others are voicing their opposition to the proposed move, stating the festival is part of the city’s fabric.

“It was created by Lou Metter during a time when the area was hit by significant job losses because area steel mills and other businesses were closing,” Angelo said. “He envisioned this as a way to bring people together, appreciate this area’s diversity and to appreciate what people of Italian-American descent have brought to the area.”

Angelo said the Italian-American Festival is one of, if not the first, of the festivals that have been held on Courthouse Square and other areas around the city.

“Warren once was called ‘the festival city’ because of the number of festivals that were held every week,” Angelo said.

Although the number of supporters at the square was small, Angelo said the pro-Italian Festival staying at the Courthouse Square group has been contacted by others through various social media accounts.

Corey Hovance, Metter’s 32-year-old grandson, does not support the proposed move of the four-day festival to the Eastwood Mall.

“I grew up coming to Courthouse Square to attend the festival,” he said. “I could not imagine going to the Warren Italian-American Festival in Niles. My grandfather created the festival to showcase Warren.”

Angelo Lucarelli, a member of the Italian-American Festival’s board of trustees, said there are between 30 and 40 trustees on the committee and six board members.

“At this point, I am against the idea of moving the festival out of the city,” Lucarelli said. “I think it would lose something if it is moved out of the city.”

“This should not be about money,” Lucarelli said. “Most of the work for the festival is done by volunteers. It takes a lot of effort to put this together year after year.”

Paul Yannucci, also a member of the committee, said he also believes it should stay in the city.

Once it is confirmed the festival will stay in the city’s downtown, Yannucci said he would like discussions about increasing security and, perhaps, expanding it outside of Courthouse Square to include the amphitheater and tours around the city using the trolley.