The Grapevine: Recapping the 44th Italian Festival as Well as Recalling Memories from Past Gatherings

By Rosalyn Queen on September 07, 2023 from The Grapevine via

Labor Day officially opened football season, ended summer, and in our area welcomed the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival.  Pre-festival events were held prior to Friday, Sept. 1, but the official opening was on Friday with the coronation of Regina Maria 44 Delaynee Wells.  The weather was beautiful and sunny and continued all weekend for all events.
I attended most of the events and it is hard for me to pick just one event, but I think that I enjoyed the parade more than any other.  This parade was just about the same as always except that I was riding on the trolley for seniors.  I made up my mind at the last minute and knew at this point I had come full circle. 
Among those on the trolley was Father Patsy Sabatelli, Commissioner Tony Veltri, and Mike Audia. We were at the front of the parade and pulled over so that we could view the parade from the comfort of the trolley.  After the parade we went to the Uptown Event Center where we were treated to a great luncheon prepared by Twin Oaks.  After the meal we all reminisced about our heritage. 
As I sat there, I thought how proud our founders would be because they were so adamant about honoring our senior members.  Frank Iaquinta felt we needed this part for those who continue to preserve our heritage.  Congratulations to Jimmy and Annie Mazzie who continue to chair this part of the festival.  I was so happy to see that Alexia Burge, daughter of Denise Biafore and Janna Robey, granddaughter of Joan Smith were chairing the luncheon.  The tradition carries on.
I had the opportunity to talk with Anthony “Boo” Bellotte and we spent a long time reminiscing about the first 25 festivals, which we and others gave much blood and sweat to get on the street.  Some things have changed but some remain the same.  We decided that both of us together maintain a lot of memories that laid the foundation for the festival. 
Boo spent many hours putting the festival on the street. We remembered all the hard work of Dave Seamon, John Shields, Vic Gabriel, Mike Fusco, and many others.  We remembered when board members actually carried ice on their shoulders to the booths.  Talk about a labor of love, this is what the festival was in the early days.  The success of the festival can be attributed to this dedication.
I hope that we never forget those founders and the many individuals who helped form the festival.
In the picture you will see my daughter, Leslie, who not only served as the Regina but also participated in the Pasta Cookoff for many years. She was always ready to help in any way I needed her.  Also carrying on the tradition is my granddaughter, Miranda Lang.  She cut her teeth on Festival events.  She helped her aunt from a young age with the pasta cookoff and she served in the Minor Court.  So little wonder that the festival means so much to our family.
Well, I will officially close the 44th Italian Heritage Festival with many fond memories and a big thank you to those who worked so hard this year.
Take care, stay safe and until next week “Now You Have Heard It Through The Grapevine.”
Editor's Note: Top photo shows front row, Avery Queen, a member of the Festival Minor Court. Standing back,from left, Lisa Lang; Addison Ammons; Leslie Queen Pruitt, Regina Maria VI; Miranda Lang, Regina Maria XL; and Rosalyn Queen, retired WVIHF Director. Bottom photo shows Miranda Lang, Rosalyn Queen, and Leslie Queen Pruitt.

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