A renaissance for Italian Festival

Heritage: The Towson event, last held in the '80s, is back with food, music and family fun.

August 08, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Thousands of local Italian-Americans - and those who maybe just enjoy gelato, pizza and spicy sausage - gathered yesterday to celebrate the return of the Towson Italian Festival, an event that was last held in the Baltimore County seat about 20 years ago.

None of this year's organizers, members of the Towson Dulaney Lodge of the Order Sons of Italy, could explain or even remember why the charitable event fizzled out sometime in the 1980s, but they are excited that it is back.

"This is a major accomplishment, to jump-start an event such as this," said Janice Arcieri, a festival organizer.

Arcieri said the two-day celebration, which continues today from noon to 6 p.m. at the Towson Courthouse Plaza, does more than raise money for scholarships and medical research into Alzheimer's disease and Cooley's anemia. It also provides a way for local non-Italians to learn about Italy.

Festival co-chairman Tony Fusco said the planning committee worked hard to bring in musical acts, traditional dance performances, and food and craft vendors that would represent the best of Italian cuisine, arts and entertainment.

"Our goal is to share our culture," Fusco said.

That included, he added, sharing values important to Italians.

"Family is one thing [that] Italians are all about," Fusco said. "So that's one of the things that we want to ... emphasize."

To underscore the event's family appeal, the festival committee included a children's area with pony rides, an obstacle course and a rock climbing wall.

Many in attendance, including Barb and Tom Lasek of Middle River, said the festival was ideal for spending time with loved ones.

"It's nice. It gives you a reason to get out and walk around," said Barb Lasek, who had traveled to the event with her husband, daughter and grandson.

Watching her 7-year-old grandson and other children tackle the obstacle course, she said the combination of cool weather, Italian food and family made the day "just awesome."

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