LIKE FINE wine the Upper Ohio Italian Festival gets better with age.
The Wheeling-based celebration opened its three-day run today. The Italian Festival is now 29 years old and has matured exquisitely.
Originally staged on crowded downtown streets, the festival has expanded to new and spacious gigs along the waterfront. Such a move was a must as the largest festival of its type in West Virginia will attract more than 100,000 revelers to the Friendly City this weekend.
Such a staggering attendance total speaks volumes to festival organizers for not resting on past laurels while looking to enhance the event each year.
The celebration unofficially kicked off Wednesday night with a recognition dinner. At that time, Alphonse Ruggieri of Steubenville was recognized as the Italian-American of the Year. The radio personality was a deserving honoree.
The Italian Festival officially began at noon today and Wheeling's Heritage Port will subsequently be flooded by an onslaught of fans from near and far. The crowds will not subside until the festival's closing late Sunday afternoon.
The ethnic celebration offers something for everyone.
Italian cuisine is personified this weekend while entertainment is both plentiful and wide-ranging. Bocce tournaments also gain center stage at the spectacle which has grown in stature to the point where it is now one of the largest festivals of its type in the nation.
While music, bocce and food are Italian magnets to attract festival-goers, the event provides the opportunity for people to renew acquaintances with friends and family they may not have seen the balance of the year. Camaraderie is served up in huge portions on the banks of the Ohio River for three days.
The Italian Festival has matured into legendary status. We urge Ohio Valley residents to treat themselves to a great time and support local businesses at the same time by taking part in the festival.