Today is the start of the 37th Annual West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival. With events continuing through Sunday, the Festival once again brings the rich cultural heritage of Italian-Americans to the forefront for local residents as well as the estimated 100,000 visitors that it brings to the area each year. It was the pride of local Italian-Americans that first began the tradition in 1979, and it’s that same spirit that has kept it alive and growing. In the weeks leading up to the Labor Day weekend events, there have been pre-Festival activities throughout the area building excitement.
The festivities kick off at noon with the Coronation of Regina Maria XXXVII followed by a full evening of performances on the Main Stage, located at the Courthouse. Other staple events include the Grand Parade on Saturday and the Outdoor Mass on Sunday morning, both held at 10AM. Each day there is also a nonstop mix of local and national talent to entertain the crowd. All shows are free to the public thanks to sponsorships and fundraising efforts. Some of this year’s featured performers include 7 Bridges: The Ultimate Eagles Experience, Chuck Negron, and Gary Lewis & The Playboys. In addition to these, there are several other highlighted performers that festival-goers will have multiple opportunities to catch on stage, including accordion players Samm & Ott, Florence Chico Cann Children’s Chorus, Benjamin DeFazio, the WVIHF Dancers, Mary Frances Beto Smith, and closing the show each night, Amici. Performing for the Festival for over three decades, Amici is a fan favorite.
For local resident and Downtown Clarksburg business owner, Brittany Kemmerer, the group is connected with years of great memories. “Every year my friends and I dance in the streets to Amici. I can’t wait for my daughter, Penelope, to dance with us this year and to start the tradition for her.” The Festival caters to families, with ongoing entertainment and activities for all ages, allowing parents to introduce the Italian culture to their children from a young age. There is a designated children’s area featuring a stage and various street performers.
Some go for the authentic cuisine, some for the music, some to socialize, and others just because it’s tradition. “I love the Festival because it reminds me of memories with my grandparents and entire family. It is like a huge reunion, and we don’t miss a year,” said Kemmerer. Whatever your reason, head downtown this weekend to celebrate the Italian-American heritage that is so prominent in our community.