Italian Fest returns to Fredonia

OBSERVER Photo by Jordan Patterson Barker Commons Park was the sight of the second annual Italian Fest. The community was able to purchase italian food and listen to live music from local musicians.

The smell of grilled peppers and onions carried through Barker Commons Park as music could be heard being gently played Saturday.

Italian Festival was back for its second year.

The Italian Festival started last year as a way for people in the Fredonia community to celebrate their Italian heritage. Church street was lined with vendors. Local restaurants, including Domus Fare, P-Dubs, Liberty’s and Mr. D’s food stand, among others, were all present.

Within the park, there was live music, including a host of musicians. Performers included: Ian Massana Liedke, Jackie and Gianna Gould, Exit 59 with Ben Siracuse, Frank Farina Band and The Dave Golando Big Band.

For the kids, a balloon artist was meandering around, face painters and a bounce house were also supplied for entertainment.

“Well, the main purpose of (Italian Festival) is to bring people to downtown Fredonia to get some activities going on,” former Fredonia Mayor and head of the Italian Festival Committee Stephen Keefe said. “(Italian Festival is) to promote Italian heritage.”

Keefe’s main goal was to shine a light on the ancestry of many people within the community.

“There’s a number of Italians (in Fredonia), unfortunately I’m not one of them, but I’m married to one,” Keefe joked.

“So, I’d like to promote the culture, the food, the dance, the music and all the things that make the heritage important to the community.”

According to Keefe, last year’s first ever Italian Festival was a great beginning to the now annual event, until it rained. Keefe was more focused on this year specifically and was optimistic about the turnout.

“This year’s going to be a great year,” Keefe said.

Saturday did not encounter any rain and the day stayed sunny throughout.

“I hope everybody has a good time and they enjoy and come back again next year,” Keefe said.

One of the tables set up within the park was the Chautauqua Italian-American Organization or simply CIAO. One thing that CIAO and the Italian Festival were doing for people was helping trace their roots to Italy. There were two computers in the Fredonia Library set up to assist people connect with their ancestors.

For Adam Karnes, a member of CIAO, the organization is primarily a social club, but it allows people to celebrate their history.

“(The purpose) is just to remember the Italian heritage and just keep going with the traditions that they did as a kid and I did as a kid,” Karnes said.

Although, Karnes and CIAO were not at Italian Festival last year, Karnes was enjoying his time this year.

“It’s nice,” Karnes. “I didn’t really know what to expect from it. The foods good.”

Also from CIAO was the President Sam Crisanti.

“I think it’s great,” Crisanti said. “I’m seeing more people than I expected. It was a little slow starting, it was scary in the beginning, but then the sun came out and it’s looking good, I think.”

Crisanti said that CIAO’s main focus is to promote local Italian heritage and get younger people involved.

“Due to the modern world… they don’t care,” Crisanti said of younger people’s interest in their heritage.

Crisanti said that it is important to trace and celebrate your roots and can’t understand why someone wouldn’t be interested.

“I find it interesting to find out where your roots are from and to see the culture that made you what you are and how you got to be where you are,” Crisanti said.

Keefe was optimistic that Italian Festival would return again for its third year in 2018, and Crisanti was also optimistic that CIAO and their genealogy table would be present, too.