Festa Italiana to bring Italian heritage, culture to Cuyahoga Falls

by Sophie Kruse | Reporter Published:

Cuyahoga Falls -- Italian culture, entertainment, food and heritage will be making its way to Falls River Square.

Festa Italiana will be July 19 from 4 p.m. to midnight, July 20 from noon to midnight and July 21 from noon to 9 p.m.

This is the fifth year of Festa Italiana. It takes nearly 300 volunteers a year to prepare, and they anticipate more than 20,000 visitors.

"There was another Italian festival before this one. That organization moved to Akron, and there was an empty spot," said Giovanni Catalano, co-chairman of the event. "There were two organizations that I'm a part of that were interested in continuing the tradition in Cuyahoga Falls. We were a little bit nervous at first. Now, we're classified as one of the best Italian festivals in Ohio for our heritage and entertainment."

The event boasts nearly 40 food vendors, which will include both Italian and American cuisine. This year, it will also feature two different brick-oven pizza makers. Other food will include pasta, strombolis and sandwiches.

There will be 10 other vendors, selling books and other Italian products.

"We were born in Italy," said Vito Testa, co-chairman of the event. "We wanted to bring to here the memories of our past, like music and food. We did just that." Testa has been involved with the event since it started, and was head of it for the first three years.

A highlight of the festival will be a variety of musical performances.

"I'm really proud of our entertainment," said Catalano. Four different acts will be coming from Italy: Salvo Randazzo, Maria Corso, Pino Gioia and Vinz Derosae I Ragazzi Italiani.

Randazzo is an Italian pop singer who was a finalist on Italias Got Talent. He's credited as being the "next Andrea Bocelli." He performed at last year's Festa Italiana.

Other entertainment will include Teo, Julie Crookston, Aftermath, Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band, The Stingers, Western Reserve Community Band, The Gene Fiocca Band, Silver Creek, Rock Radio, Arrival, I Campagnoli, The Michael Weber Show, Gli Italiani and Vincent Ruby.

The entertainment includes many American performers.

"It really brings the community together, both Americans and Italians. In today's world, we all need to be together," said Testa.

There will be several different activities, including Texas Hold'em and Bocce ball tournaments every evening of the festival. Registration forms for Texas Hold'em is available on the website. To register for Bocce ball, call Guido Cornacchione at 330-607-1949. A morra tournament will take place on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Morra is a classic Italian hand game that involves strategy.

A Zumbathon will be July 20 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There will be a $15 donation entry fee. A portion of the proceeds from this will go to the Children's Oncology Group in memory of Gino Altieri. Last year, they donated more than $2,000.

Other notable events will include grape stomping, from 3:15 to 3:45 p.m. on July 21 and a Catholic mass at 11 a.m. on July 21.

Activities for kids include pignatta, at 5 p.m. July 21.

Italian American Heritage Awards

Prior to Festa Italiana will be the Italian American Heritage Awards, on July 17 at 6 p.m. at the Italian Center. Tickets for this banquet are sold out. This event is catered by Vaccaro's Trattoria of Fairlawn.

The banquet will honor four different radio stations that have aired Italian broadcasts. These are WAUP-FM, WJCU 88.7 FM, WRUW-FM 91.1 and WELW 1330 AM.

They will also be giving out three scholarships, each worth $1,000. These are going to Nathan Christopher Blasio, Walsh Jesuit High School; Stephanie Lucia Padula, Archbishop Hoban High School; and Marisa Angelina Tomei, Archbishop Hoban High School.

Mary Josephine Parri will be giving a speech on Italian heritage to conclude the banquet.

Along with the rest of the events Festa Italiana is putting on, they will be hosting artwork by Maestro Giancarlo Calicchia at the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center until July 21, with the Italian Consulate of Detroit. Calicchia is an Italian American sculptor.

A portion of the proceeds from Festa Italiana are donated to many local organizations, including foundations like Cure Search, the Marine Foundation and the Pride Alumni Band.

"We came from Italy and the community was very good to us. We really benefited from the community. We wanted to help as much as we can," said Testa.

Last year they donated nearly $15,000, according to Testa.

A large part of the festival is sponsored by the Cuyahoga Falls Italian Center where anyone of Italian descent is welcome to be a member.

Other sponsors are Summa Western Reserve Hospital, Peroni Beer, The I.A.Y.A. Club and DeVitis Italian Deli and Market.

For more information on Festa Italiana and a complete schedule of the weekend's events, visit www.festaitalianacf.com.

Email: skruse@recordpub.com

Facebook: Sophie Kruse, Record Publishing

Twitter: @kruseco

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