SOUTHINGTON - Food, fireworks, music and more is in store for the 14th annual Italian-American Festival, returning to lower Center Street July 27 to July 29.
The festival, sponsored by three local Italian clubs - Sons of Italy, Unico and Sorelle D’Italia - will be held from 5 to 11 p.m. July 27, 1 to 11 p.m. July 28 and noon to 6 p.m. July 29.
The street will be lined with Italian flags and booths of vendors selling crafts and local restaurants selling food.
Visitors can sit in a shady tent area or at the outdoor dining patios of restaurants and enjoy live music and entertainment.
A dance area will be set up in front of the event stage. A children’s carnival and activities also will be offered.
“Last year, the number of people who came to the festival was unbelievable,” said Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, a Unico member. “The weather cooperated and it was absolutely packed all weekend to the point where Unico ran out of its popular sausage and pepper grinders.”
On July 27, entertainment will include Salvo DeMartino, from Naples, Tio Ricciadella, from New York, Marcello Sparagna, from Hartford, and a traditional Italian dance organized by Sorelle D’Italia.
“Having an Italian singer will be a huge draw,” said Miceli. “People have been telling us for years that this is what they want to see.”
Opening ceremonies will start Friday at 7 p.m. and a fireworks show will be held at 9 p.m., with a rain date of Saturday.
“This is the first time that we’ve had fireworks in the festival’s 14-year history,” said Miceli. “Our town normally has them only during the Apple Harvest Festival. They will be going off from the dog park, just like during the Apple Harvest Festival.”
On July 28, featured entertainers will be DeMartino, the Sam Vincent Quintet, an Italian/jazz band from Middletown, Charley Tiernan from New Haven, Michael Ciulla from Essex and Bob Luparello, a comedian from New York.
A Taekwondo demonstration and a homemade wine contest are also scheduled Saturday.
The Italian-American Festival Committee and a grape distributor, Northeast Produce of Hartford, will host the 11th wine contest. There is no entry fee. Participants may enter more than one bottle of red or white wine as long as they are of different makes or vintages. The wines can be either red or white and will be judged separately.
The last day to enter the contest is July 20. Wine will be judged on July 28 at 2 p.m., when the winners will be announced. Winners need not be present.
Bottles can be dropped off at: Northeast Produce Regional Market or at 10 Robert Jackson Way, Plainville, during the week from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and at Fancy Bagels on Queen Street or on Scott Swamp Road from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. For additional information, call Tony Cusano at 860-681-3451, Luigi Barbato at 860-628-2241, Matthew Lopreiato at 860-302-8314 or Tony Perone at 203-235-2703 during the day.
On July 29, Antonio Venditti and the Ambrosiani Band, from Providence, R.I., will perform. A traditional Italian Mass will be held at 10 a.m., followed by the procession of the Madonna della Strada statue.
“There are always hundreds of people participating,” said Miceli.
Unico member David Zoni said that the Italian-American Festival represents the mission of the town’s three Italian clubs.
“We have a large Italian community in Southington and during the Italian festival weekend, everybody becomes Italian,” said Zoni.