By TAYLOR HARTZ
The aroma of Italian food will fill Center St. this weekend, as the 11th annual Italian-American festival returns to downtown.
Sponsored by the Southington chapter of UNICO and the Sons of Italy, the event aims to promote Italian heritage in town, with a full schedule of live entertainment and a variety of vendors, food tents, and cultural events.
The festival begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24, and will continue from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 26.
Dawn Miceli, a member of the festival committee, said residents can expect to see more vendors, sponsors and performers celebrating their culture than ever before.
“The town of Southington has really deep Italian-American roots, and this festival celebrates it in every way,” Miceli said about the event.
More than 30 local vendors are expected to serve Italian cuisine, drinks, and desserts, cooking up steak bombs, paninis, and pizzas, along with the traditional sausage and pepper grinders from UNICO and Pasta Fagiole from the Sons’ of Italy.
Several bands and vocalists will fill the streets with Italian tunes while a weekend-long children’s carnival will entertain younger audiences.
Special events will include an Italian church service and the festival’s 8th annual wine tasting contest.
The festival committee and Northeast Produce, a grape distributor from Hart ford, will host the “Homemade Wine Contest” at 2pm on Saturday.
Judges will taste test homemade reds and whites, entered by local residents who will compete for the title of best wine maker in town.
An Italian mass will be held on the Center Street stage at 10am on Sunday July 26, followed by the Blessed Saint Procession that will proceed through the downtown streets beginning at 11am.
This year’s mass will honor the recent passing of Southington resident Patrick Baker, who was a key supporter of the Italian-American festival since its inception, and donated items to the mass, including the Madonna Della Strata statue.
Miceli urged all residents to join in the festival, stating that whether or not you hail from an Italian family, the festival “just makes you feel good that people have pride in their heritage.”
Festival hours are Friday, July 24 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, July, 25 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, July 26 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
According to the Southington Police Department, vehicles will be detoured around the festival using High Street to North Liberty Street or Center Street.
There will be no parking on either side of North Liberty Street or South Center Street. Parking will not be allowed on High Street—between North Main Street and Center Street, on Center Street—from High Street to Water Street, or on Liberty Street—from Columbus Avenue to North Liberty Street.
Handicap parking is available in the municipal parking lot on North Liberty Street.
The SPD has stated that no dogs, skateboards, rollerblades, bicycles, scooters, or motorized vehicles will be allowed on the grounds of the festival.