Italian Festival this weekend on Town Green
The fifth annual North Haven Italian Festival of Angels will take place Aug. 21 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Aug. 22, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., on the Town Green.
Festival admission is free. The event, hosted by the North Haven Sons and Daughters of Italy Lodge 2805, will feature live demonstrations of Italian cooking and craftsmanship, Italian cultural presentations, live musical entertainment, an expanded Italian marketplace, raffles, a grape stomp contest, a soccer tournament, parades, several charities, a kids area, an appearance by Ms. Connecticut, a crazy tie contest, a child protection program, and of course, plenty of fresh Italian food.
The festival will attract approximately 30,000 visitors over two days, according to festival events director Len Stepleman, who added that a larger crowd may attend depending on the weather.
Over half of the festival’s profits are donated to charities, according to Lodge 2805 president Neil Velleca Jr., including Cooley’s Anemia Foundation and Coaches Versus Cancer, as well as local town and school libraries for the purchase of Italian literature. The remainder of the profits goes toward the upkeep of Lodge 2805.
Velleca Jr. added that the popular festival is held to educate the public on Italian culture and customs.
“What you won’t find is carnival rides and games,” he said of the event. “It is Italian food, Italian entertainment, and Italian culture. That’s what makes us different from other festivals.”
Accordingly, the festival will feature live demonstrations of Italian cooking and craftsmanship on the hour, every hour. These interactive classes include pasta making, pesto making, artichoke preparation, garlic braiding, herb drying, a session on how to play Tombola – Italian Bingo, an author roundtable including East Haven’s Jackie Minoci, and a Murano glass-making demonstration. Additionally, there will be a pizza dough toss demonstration, with lessons from award-winning spinner Joe Arcangelo.
The Italian Culture tent will include displays about Italian automobiles, entertainment, traditions, superstitions, food, soccer and towns in Italy.
There will be free live music throughout the entire festival, with many local children’s groups performing in the morning and afternoon. Friday evening’s entertainment begins at 5 p.m., with the Minotti Singers, from North Haven’s Minotti Music. Italian singer Rich DiPalma, a North Haven native, will perform at 7 p.m., and Neapolitan group Mario Ciconne and the Vision Band will take the main stage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday evening will commence with Minotti Music at 5 p.m., followed by local youth performers. Italian vocalist Aaron Caruso will take the stage at 7 p.m. followed by the Neapolitan band Sound Sensation at 9 p.m. There will also be strolling Italian musicians throughout the festival, including mandolin and accordion performers.
The festival will once again feature an Italian marketplace, which has been expanded after positive feedback from last year, according to Lodge 2805 member Antoinetta Carmody. Items for sale include Italian foodstuff, t-shirts, soccer balls, spiritual items, rosary beads blessed by the Pope, other jewelry, balloons, novelties and kids’ stuff.
A 2009 Vespa scooter and a 32-inch LCD television will be raffled off at the festival. Tickets are $3 each, or $15 for a booklet. Additionally, a “crazy quilt” will be raffled off. The quilt, a collection of haphazard fabric and decorations, was created by Lodge 2805 members. The patchwork bedcovering took over 300 hours to create, and its estimated value is $500. Quilt raffle tickets are $1 – second and third prizes are baskets of other handmade items.
The grape stomp competition will be held at 1 p.m. on Aug. 22. Registered, costumed teams will crush the small fruits underfoot in an entertaining display ancient winemaking.
Youth soccer tournaments will be held at North Haven Memorial Field, on Broadway. The 12-and-under boys’ division will play Aug. 21 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Girls and boys 10-and-under will play Aug. 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Girls 12-and-under will take place Aug. 22 from 2 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. Each four-team division will face off in a round robin tournament. After each division has completed competition, the players will march to the town green with colorful festival flags.
East Haven-based Marines will march with flags through the Town Green on Aug. 21 at 5 p.m. A ceremony will follow the Marines’ march. The Procession of Angels will take place at 4 p.m. on Aug 22, including a parade of children through the Green. A pastor from Our Lady Church, Waterbury, will bless the festival’s angel statue, and children will be able to name their guardian angel. There will also be a ceremony for deceased members of Lodge 2805.
Several charity drives will be held at the festival to benefit soldiers overseas. Old cell phones will be collected by Cell Phones for Soldiers, a non-profit organization started by twin teenagers in Norwell, Mass. The organization recycles cell phones, raising money to provide video phones and prepaid phone services for U.S. troops stationed on other continents. Additionally, Holy Joe’s Café will be accepting donations of coffee, tea and cocoa products. Holy Joe’s collects café products and ships them to military chaplains overseas to set up Coffee House Ministries, places where U.S. soldiers are welcomed to relax with a taste of home.
The festivals free kids’ area will be open Aug. 22 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The designated area will include a craft section, games, and an obstacle course. Crafts will include the construction of handprint angels, which will be displayed throughout the festival.
Ms. Connecticut will make an appearance at the festival to sign autographs.
There will also be a crazy tie contest. Festival visitors are invited to donate unused and unwanted ties. The craziest of the donated ties will be awarded a blue ribbon and bragging rights. The remaining ties, wacky or not, will be used to create a crazy quilt for next year’s festival.
During the festival, the Corinthian Masonic Lodge 103 will hold a free CTCHIP program across the street from the festival at 30 Church St. The program provides families with a comprehensive identification system for their children’s safekeeping. Registered children will tape a brief interview on a mini DVD disc, have their photo stored on a mini DVD disc, and have recordings taken of their finger prints, saliva and dental bite impression. The completed package is then given to the child’s parents or guardian.
Naturally, it would not be an Italian Festival without a wide selection of Italian food offerings for purchase. A variety of vendors will offer up Italian specialties, including pizza, fried dough, sausage and peppers, suffrite, broccoli rabe and sausage, freshly stuffed cannolis, fried fish, meatball subs and Italian ice, as well as fair staples hot dogs and hamburgers. Participating vendors include North Haven eateries J. Roos Restaurant and Giulio’s Pizza Restaurant, as well as Bucciti’s Italian Food and Melissa’s Fried Fish. Lodge 2805 members will also cook for the festival.
The festival will be run by Lodge 2805 volunteers, whom will be in dark green shirts if needed for assistance.
A Lodge 2805 membership drive will be held at the festival.
American Legion Post 76 and Knights of Columbus, North Haven will have festival booths.
The festival’s major sponsors are Big Y World Class Market, and Neal Angelini, owner of East Haven and New Haven Dunkin Donuts.
The North Haven Sons and Daughters of Italy Lodge 2805, a non-profit organization, has donated over $85,000 to local and national charities since 2004. It currently contains approximately 300 members.
For more festival information, visit www.northhavenlodge2805.org.