Warren Italian fest turns 35

Tuesday storm will not dampen spirits

No microburst is going to stop the 35th Warren Italian-American Heritage Festival.

A heavy storm that ripped through the city Tuesday afternoon brought down trees in Courthouse Square and derailed set up for the annual event.

Carole Ficeti, president of the festival board, said she can’t promise that everything planned will go on as scheduled today, but the festival will open at 4 p.m.

“We’re looking at it this way, she said Wednesday morning. “We’re working to get the small tents up now. The vendors are still coming in tonight. We may not have the beer tent, but we’ll be open and are doing our best.”

The bocce tournament will start as planned, she said. If crews can get the stage area completed, the Miss Warren Italian Festival Pageant and the Tiny King and Queen Pageant will take place this evening.

Organizers know how many people look forward to the festival each year, and Ficeti can tell from its mailing list that many of those attendees come from out of town.

“People plan their family reunions and class reunions around the festival,” she said.

Ficeti credited its longevity to: “A lot of people are proud of their Italian-American heritage and they want to keep it going. People enjoy working and coming down to the festival.”

Many of the activities that were part of the event when Lou Metter conceived in 1985 continue today, although returning visitors will notice some changes. Organizers eliminated the amusement park rides this year and will expand the number of bounce houses and inflatable slides and add fair / festival games in their place, according to board member Mike Dando.

Salvatore’s and Sunrise Inn Express will join Antone’s Kitchen for those looking for Italian fare at the Italian fest, and there will be the usual assortment of vendors selling traditional fair foods.

Tuesday’s storm wasn’t the only obstacle this year. Organizers did have to juggle the entertainment schedule after popular area performer Dominic Tocco was forced to cancel most of his dates this summer after breaking both of this legs.

Ovation will fill his main stage slot on Friday and the Vegas Band will play on Sunday.

Ficeti said that has happened before, and with far less notice.

“One year Natalie Pinto sang one night, then got a throat infection and couldn’t perform the next night,” she said.

Friday starts with the annual kick-off breakfast, which will feature a talk by Martha Pallante, interim dean for the college of liberal arts and social sciences at Youngstown State University, and music by John Gabriele.

Frequent festival performer Graziana will headline the main stage, and DJ Tom Angelo will entertain in the beer tent.

Returning attractions on Saturday include the wine tasting competition at 1 p.m. and the morra tournament at 2 p.m.

The Allegro Dance Company will make its first appearance at the festival, and Guys Without Ties makes its Italian fest debut in the beer tent.

“I’ve always wanted them (Guys Without Ties) here, and this year we had the opportunity,” Ficeti said.

Graziana and another returning favorite, singer Moreno Fruzzetti, also will play the main stage Saturday.

The final day starts with an Italian outdoor Mass at 9:30 a.m. and the annual parade at 2 p.m. with Diana Marchese as grand marshal. The festival will conclude Sunday with fireworks, and organizers hope the only bursts in the sky will be the ones the festival sets off.

SCHEDULE: This is the original schedule planned for the festival. Some events may be rescheduled or canceled as a result of Tuesday’s storms that caused damage and delayed setup.

TODAY

4 p.m. — Ribbon-cutting ceremony

6 to 11 p.m. — Bocce tournament

6:30 to 11 p.m. — Rex Taneri Band (beer tent)

6:30 p.m. — Tiny King and Queen pageant (main stage)

8 p.m. — Miss Warren Italian Festival pageant (main stage)

FRIDAY

9:30 a.m. — Kickoff breakfast

5 to 11 p.m. — Bocce tournament

7 to 11 p.m. — DJ Tom Angelo (beer tent)

8 p.m. — Ovation (main stage)

9:15 p.m. — Graziana (main stage)

SATURDAY

9 a.m. to 11 p.m. — Bocce tournament

Noon to 4 p.m. — John Gabriele (gazebo)

1 p.m. — Wine tasting competition (gazebo)

1 to 5 p.m. — Jim Frank Combo (beer tent)

2 p.m. — Morra tournament

5:15 p.m. — Allegro Dance Company (beer tent)

7 to 11 p.m. — Guys Without Ties (beer tent)

7 p.m. — Mirella the Musician (main stage)

8:15 p.m. — Graziana (main stage)

9:30 p.m. — Moreno Fruzzetti (main stage)

SUNDAY

9 a.m. — Bocce tournament

9:15 a.m. — Procession of the Madonna

9:30 a.m. — Outdoor Italian Mass

1 to 5 p.m. — The Italian Cousins (beer tent)

2 p.m. — Parade

5:15 p.m. — Allegro Dance Company (beer tent)

7 to 11 p.m. — DJ Tom Angelo (beer tent)

7 p.m. — Mirella the Musician (main stage)

8:15 p.m. — Vegas Band (main stage)

9:30 p.m. — Moreno Fruzzetti (main stage)

10:45 p.m. — Fireworks

COMMENTS