A personal stamp on the stomp

With shimmies and shakes, competitors turn grapes into juice during the Italian Festival

Maryland

September 26, 2005|By Anica Butler | Anica Butler,Sun reporter

At yesterday's Italian Festival in Towson, there were as many styles of grape stomping as there were participants.

Lindsey Fejfar, 18, a student at Villa Julie College, and Erin Byerly, 19, a Towson University student, mashed barefoot, side by side, in wooden buckets filled with grapes, hands on their hips and heads held high.

Husband-and-wife team Andy and Tracey Marcantoni of Towson held hands, as they lifted their knees in coordinated stomps.

And Tina Scaccio, 28, of San Diego, Calif., danced in time with the music as she stomped, while brother Vince, 21, of Bel Air, tried to muster up a few shimmies and shakes himself in the barrel next to her as he dodged the grapes his sister playfully tossed his way.

About 170 pounds of grapes later, the judges named Tina and Vince Scaccio, who'd had the crowd clapping and cheering, the first- and second-place winners of the grape-stomping contest.

The dancing was spontaneous, Tina Scaccio said.

"I like to dance, but I've never danced on grapes," she said. "It's not as squishy as you would think."

Vince Piscopo, one of the contest judges, said, "She had rhythm and was working the crowd."

Indeed, the purpose of the festival - held yesterday and Saturday in the courtyard of the Baltimore County courthouse - was to generate excitement about next month's Columbus Day Parade, said Piscopo, president of Columbus Celebrations, which organized the festival.

The festival, he said, was "to get the spirit going." The parade will be Oct. 9 in Baltimore.

Also at the weekend festivities were acrobatic dough-tossing demonstrations by members of the U.S. Pizza Team. The pair spun discs of dough on their fingers, over their shoulders and behind their backs, then flung them high into the air or into the audience. Dough swirled between their legs as they made little leaps into the air.

Later on, the team members, Chris Green, 22, of Oxford, Miss. - who has never worked in a pizza parlor - and Jerry Neumann, 22, of Jacksonville, Ill., taught others the basic of spinning and twirling discs of fake dough.

The festival also featured a bocce tournament, a pasta-eating contest and, of course, Italian music, food and wine. There also was an Italian gondola on display.

Piscopo said that the festival's Frank Sinatra impersonator contest drew entrants from other states, including New Jersey and Ohio.

But for some of the youngest at the festival, the grape stomping seemed to spark the most enthusiasm.

Caroline Shea, 7, of Towson was drawn to a children's grape-stomping contest by the chance to win prizes, and her method of energetically moving "side to side and jump[ing] huge to get the most" proved effective: She left with a new soccer ball.

She'd definitely do it again, she said, but added, "It felt kind of weird."

anica.butler@baltsun.com

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