CLARKSBURG, W. Va. – A celebration of the rich culture which made its way from “Lo Stivale” to “Lo Stato Di Montagna” kicks off Friday in Clarksburg.
The West Virginia Italian Heritage festival brings in Italians and non-Italians alike from across the state and beyond to celebrate history, music and cuisine.
The event was started in 1979 by group of men who wanted to showcase their heritage in Harrison County, where a significant portion of the population had Italian ancestors.
A study was conducted by WVU to find if such a festival could be successful.
“The response 36 years ago was unbelievably high because there was around 34 percent of the population in Harrison County was of Italian decent,” Mary “Weege” Vargo, member of the Italian Heritage Festival Board said.
The beginning of the three day festival is marked by the coronation of Kasandra Ruscitto of Vienna as “Regina Maria.”
“Regina is the queen in Italian, that’s how you say it in Italian,” Vargo said. “So that’s why we call her Regina Maria and she is Regina Maria XXXVI.”
This year’s event offers music from accordion players Sam and Ott to former Journey lead singer Steve Augeri, authentic Italian cuisine with a wine garden and activities for the whole family.
Events taking place at The Waldomore will have a special emphasis on Italian culture.
“On Saturday at 2 p.m., the movie ‘The Seven Hills of Rome,’ will be showing at the Waldomore,” Vargo said. “On Sunday at 1:30 is the authors forum.”
Marie Manilla and Diana Pishner Walker will discuss their latest books and about writing with their Italian-American heritage as a guide.
No matter what draws one to the event, Vargo expects a good time to be had by all.
“Mainly, the festival an opportunity to get together with friends to celebrate a wonderful heritage of food and music and entertainment, whether you’re Italian or not,” she said. “To also have the opportunity to share memories and be in the streets of Clarksburg and having a great time.”
A full schedule can be found at the event’s website.