West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival

Clarksburg Exponent
September 1, 1979

Thousands To See Italian Heritage Festival Parade Today

Attendance Exceeding Predictions

Main Street Clarksburg was turned into a common basking in brilliant sunlight and later in silvery moonlight, over thousands of persons leisurely strolled Friday observing the abundance of activities and sights while visiting with old friends and making many new ones during the opening day of the first West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival.

Persons were literally unable to get within one block of Jerry Vale as he sang the lovely lilting songs dear to the heart of the Italian-Americans.

With the festival already accepted as one of the greatest things that has happened in Clarksburg in many years, another day is just beginning and it brings the feature parade, with Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio serving as parade marshal.

Many other dignitaries will be appearing in the parade, including Governor Rockefeller: the Most Rev. Joseph H. Hodges, bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese; Senator Jennings Randolph; Representative Robert H. Mollohan and West Virginia Secretary of State A. James Manchin.

Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd is not expected to arrive in time to participate in the parade and his office extended its regrets, saying he had a prior commitment in Parsons. He will travel by helicopter to Benedum Airport and from there a police escort will bring him to the festival.

He is expected to arrive in time to participate with Governor Rockefeller and Senator Randolph in a 1 p.m. news conference on the third floor of the Harrison County Correctional Center. There is anticipation this will be an announcement concerning the purchase of Brockway Glass Company by Anchor Hocking Company.

The Calabrian Singers and Dancers of New York City will perform at noon at the Wine Garden Restaurant and at 4:30 p.m. at the courthouse, with the YMCA-Monza Grand Prix, a 10km distance run, to begin at 1 p.m.

A "Morra" Tournament will be held during the afternoon at the courthouse and an Italian Film Festival will take place between 1 and 4 p.m. at the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library.

I Campagnoli, a Pittsburgh folk dance ensemble, a performance are scheduled at 1:30 and 9 p.m. at the courthouse. There will be puppet performances from 3 to 4 p.m. at the courthouse and the Romona Rose Dancers will offer a floor show at Wine Garden Restaurant (Union National Bank Mall) at 6:30 p.m.

Bishop Hodges will conduct a special mass in Italian at 7 p.m. at the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church.

The West Virginia Opera Theatre will be held 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lowndes Bank Plaza, with the Renaissance Street festivities to be held 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

A stellar fireworks display was held Friday night and another such attraction is scheduled this evening at about 10:30. The fireworks are set off from Lowndes Hill.

Closing out the festival Sunday will be the Bocca Tournament at 2 p.m. at River Bend Park and the Italian Cabaret, which begins at 8:30 p.m. and continues to 2 a.m.

While festival officials were predicting good crowds, they were pleasantly surprised with the exceptional turnout. Several booth vendors expressed dismay as most of their food supplies were depleted rapidly. They did promise to have a fresh supply for today.

A report from festival headquarters late Friday evening indicated that all supplies, including hot dogs, lasagna, rigatoni, the ice cream and ices will all be replenished for Saturday, even if the kitchens had to stay open all night.

Dan McCarthy, president of the Harrison County Commission, gave the welcome address at the opening ceremonies Friday on the courthouse plaza. "Someone spoke of 30,000 or 50,000 people coming here for the festival," he stated and then predicted "Tomorrow there will be 70,000 here."

There were several thousand on hand to hear the prediction and witness the crowning of Miss Mary Frances Beto as Regina Maria I by Secretary Manchin.

The opening ceremonies began with an invocation by the Rev. Father Emil Dobosz, the singing of the American National Anthem by Charles Freeman and the reciting in unison of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Master of Ceremonies John Peters introduced Clarksburg Mayer Arch N. Benninger, who read a proclamation, signed by City Manager Patsy Trecost and members of the Clarksburg City Council stating that the festival reflects the bravery of Italian ancestors who left their homeland to come to the United States.

The city officials proclaimed they are "proud to be part of this ethnic folk revival" and "we urge all to take part in the festivities."

Benninger presented the proclamation to Frank Iaquinta, president of the festival committee, who said: "Benvenuto!...You have responded as I knew you would...All I have to say is 'enjoy yourself!"

Members of the court of Regina Maria I, including the maid of honor, princesses, maids of honor, crown bearer and scepter bearer, were then presented, followed by the introduction of the queen herself, Miss Mary Frances Beto.

Secretary Manchin, who was next introduced to crown Regina Maria I, greeted the thousands of spectators in Italian, saying "in the name of the people of West Virginia on behalf of the festival committee, I do hereby crown you, Regina Maria Uno, to reign over all that is beautiful and good...You are the pride of America, the pride of Italy, the pride of West Virginia.

"Queen Mary, you are now an Ambassador of Good Will of the State of West Virginia."

Manchin concluded saying, "Viva, Italia! Viva, America!"

The organizing committee for the festival, whose members estimated the number of visitors said response to the event has been so outstanding that they plan to make it an annual affair. Next year's festival will be "bigger and better," they say.

With West Main Street blocked off from Fifth Street to the Sheraton Inn, there was some confusion as early morning travelers arrived in the downtown area. But this was resolved as they took alternate routes. Main Street will be opened to normal traffic Sunday.

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