The Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival always draws a crowd, and this year, event organizers are expecting another great turnout. The weekend-long celebration begins today at noon with opening ceremonies at Wheeling Heritage Port and will wrap up on Sunday evening.
Here are five experiences you won’t want to miss at this year’s festival:
Discover Your Roots in the Boot
If you’re curious about your Italian roots, you can stop by the “Your Roots in the Boot” booth for a quick genealogical search to find out where your Italian lineage likely began. You’ll learn region-specific information, such as popular food and wine, famous landmarks and people, and regional traditions.
Taste of Italy
In lieu of having the traditional Little Italy section, a new “Taste of Italy” area will be set up along 12th Street at this year’s event. Each day will feature different Italian specials, all homemade by festival organizers. Friday’s menu will feature grab-and-go fare with favorites like pizza and pepperoni rolls, with Saturday and Sunday offering a full dinner menu with pasta, homemade sauce and salads.
Outside of the Taste of Italy village, you can explore several other vendors who will be offering up their take on Italian classics. The Sons of Italy – a crowd favorite – will be back again to sell their fresh-ground sausage sandwiches. Volunteers from the group have been working all week to prepare over 3,000 pounds of their famous sausage. All proceeds from the sales from their booth provide scholarships to local students and donations to local organizations.
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All weekend long, you can get your sugar fix with homemade bakery items such as cannoli and Italian pastries – all made by local bakers. You can also cool off with homemade gelato that’s being made with several ingredients sourced from Italy. In fact, the gelato machine itself was purchased in Italy!
Live Music, Italian Style
With an eclectic mix of traditional Italian music and contemporary hits, the entertainment lineup at this year’s festival will have something for everyone. Get your toes tapping to some classic Italian music by Rick Pastre & Al Provenzano, Robert ‘Moose’ Dodrill, Ray Massa Big Italian Show, Bob Gaudio, Rex Taneri, The Cavaliers, Lights Out, Le Sorelle Di Bacco, Campo Italiana, and The Avanti Band.
• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.