By SHERIDAN ROY
The 15th annual Southington Italian American Festival is just around the corner, being planned from Friday, July 26 through Sunday, July 28 on the lower portion of Center Street. The event celebrates the rich Italian culture that merged with the American lifestyle in Southington many years ago and still holds true to its traditions today.
“Southington has quite a large Italian-American community,” said Dave Zoni, former president of the Southington UNICO chapter. “The area on West Center Street was once all settled by Italians back in the late 19th century, early 20th century during the mass migration from Europe to America, and since then, the Italians in Southington have always played a big role in town.”
“The three of us put together this festival to keep the Italian-American traditions alive in Southington,” said Zoni. “People still enjoy great Italian food, Italian music, and of course American music as well. This event combines the two cultures.”
The event begins Friday, from 5 to 11 p.m. It continues Saturday, from 1 to 11 p.m., and Sunday, from 12 to 6 p.m. The official opening ceremony of the 15th annual festival will be held on Friday at 7 p.m.
Dozens of food vendors will be on site offering a large variety of options such as fried dough, gelato, sausage and pepper grinders, Italian pastries, pastas, breads, hot dogs and hamburgers and much more.
Musical entertainment will be performed on the main stage, including a Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons tribute band The Jersey Four, a show-band New England’s Head Over Heels, traditional Italian singers and a variety of additional entertainment including a children’s carnival.
“The entertainment schedule changes from year to year so we are always offering different performers,” said Zoni. “Vendors come and go each year as well, offering a different selection of foods.”
There will also be a homemade wine contest. Winners will be announced at the festival on Saturday. There is no entry fee, and participants can enter more than one bottle of wine as long as it is a different make of wine or year. Red and white wine will be judged separately.
Bottles for the wine contest can be dropped off by Wednesday, July 24 at Northeast Produce Regional Market (101 Reserve Rd., Hartford or 10 Robert Jackson Way, Plainville) or Fancy Bagels (405 Queen St., Southington or 353 Scott Swamp Rd., Farmington).
On Sunday at 10 a.m., the festival will feature the traditional outdoor Italian mass followed by a procession with the statue of Madonna della Strada.
The Sons of Italy Club was founded in 1910 by nine Italian immigrants who wanted to form a brotherhood of Italians and help immigrants coming to the area from Italy. Through the years, the organization held many carnivals, card tournaments and variety shows to raise money charities and for those who needed help. Members today continue to ensure that the club attracts new members and keep its traditions alive.
The Southington UNICO chapter was formed 75 years ago by 28 men with Italian origins from the town of Southington. They embrace three objectives: service to fellow man and community, fostering and promoting Italian heritage, and supporting charitable educational projects. The club has been a lead supporter and organizer of the Italian American festival since its inception in 2005.
The Sorelle d’Italia (sisters of Italy) is comparatively a newer organization, formed in 2010 by women of Italian heritage. The club focuses on preserving and promoting Italian culture, while serving the Southington community.
“If you’ve never been to the Italian American festival, it’s time to come and get involved in the Italian heritage,” said Zoni. “Taste some fine foods, and hear some of the modern Italian singers who made the American songbook what it is today.”
According to Southington police, Center Street will be closed between Liberty Street and Factory Square during festival hours. There will be no parking on North Liberty Street, portions of Liberty Street, High Street, Factory Square and portions of Center Street.
Follow along with updates at www.facebook.com/SouthingtonItalianFestival.