It's Happening: WVIHF - About Much More than Food and Music

By Julie Perine on August 31, 2022 from It’s Happening via

It’s all coming this weekend: The live music and dancing, Italian foods, pageantry and celebration Presented by Dan Cava Toyota World, The 43rd West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival kicks off just before noon Friday and organizers could not be more excited.
Live festivals did not take place in 2020 and 2021, due to the COVID pandemic. Getting back to an in-person event means so much and it’s about a lot more than entertainment and food.
“It’s a great, fun weekend to be part of, but the connection is on a deeper level; the fact that people gambled with their lives and made a sacrifice to make it work; leaving what they thought was safe and constant n their own homeland and came here to make it work - and they survived,” said Stephen Pishner of the WVIHF board. “It’s the simplest version understanding of success. (Otherwise), there wouldn’t be anything to celebrate.”
Rated among “Top 100 Events in North America,” the Labor Day weekend festival brings over 100,000 visitors to Clarksburg.
“What brings people here? It’s the passion of what we do that overflows into other kinds of things, into hospitality, into being easy with one another and at home with one another, into pumping energy into the streets where people want to dance into the night,” Pishner said. “Everybody involved with the festival to various degrees, there’s one constant component: Passion for what we are doing.”
The action starts at 11:15 a.m. Friday with music by AMICI, followed by coronation of Regina Maria XLIII Marissa Maria Bailey (pictured right) and her court – from maids of honor and senior princesses to the tiniest minor court members. (See the entire court HERE.)
“It’s a big court. It’s going to take a while to get all the kids on stage and read their bios, but those are the components that are kind of the feeder into the future of the festival,” Pishner said. “Think about the smallest child on that stage and how far in time they are from the immigrant who landed here and created a life that now eventually brought them forward and onto that stage.”
When seeing these children introduced, Pishner asks festival goers to think back to the early-1900s when the early Italian immigrants came to the Clarksburg area.
“We’re talking about 120 some years later and this little kid walks onto the stage because all those years before, their great-great grandparent came from Italy. If we don’t go through this process, the story fades and dies and I think the story is important,” he said.
Festivities will take place all day Friday with live entertainment on the main stage, culminating with Friday’s featured band “Stayin’ Alive” delivering a live tribute performance of the Bee Gees. Saturday and Sunday also feature a full slate of live entertainment and special events; highlights including “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Bon Jovi tribute show, Michela Musolino and Rosa Tatuata, John Lloyd Young featuring the music of Frankie Valli, Saturday’s Grand Feature Parade, Author’s Forum, Art and Photography Exhibits, and the Cincinnati Circus Stunt Show. (See a full schedule of events HERE.)
While meandering the streets and enjoying live music, festival goers can browse various vendor tents featuring attire, jewelry and other wares and, of course, their favorite Italian foods and sweets. But the icing on the cake, Pishner reminds us, is the reason behind it all.
“It’s about the people who took a chance and sacrificed and tried to become better; be part of America – and bring something to the scene. They were coal miners, bridge builders, restaurant owners or even good parents raising good kids who would become assets to the community. That’s what we’re celebrating.”
Editor's Note: Photos of 2019 festival and Regina Maria Marissa Bailey are courtesy of WVIHF Web site and Facebook pages.

Connect Bridgeport
© 2023