Italian Festival names scholarship winners, Italian-American of year

Photo provided Rita Carapellotti is the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival’s 2024 Italian-American of the Year.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE –The Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival recently honored winners of its annual scholarships, as well as the group’s 2024 Italian-American of the Year.

The celebration, held Wednesday at Undo’s West in St. Clairsville, was the precursor to the 41st year for the Italian Heritage Festival, a staple event in the Ohio Valley. This year’s festival will be held July 26-28 at Wheeling’s Heritage Port.

Among Wednesday’s business was the announcement of 12 scholarship winners, two from each of the counties in the Ohio Valley represented in the festival. Festival officials said the organization has distributed nearly half a million dollars in scholarships over the life of the event.

This year’s scholarship winners were Rylin Russell, Wheeling Park; Abigail Heilman, Wheeling Park; Reese Ward, John Marshall; Alanta Updegraff, John Marshall; Ella Maragos, Steubenville Catholic; Jasmine Yohe, Buckeye Local; Jacqueline O’Karma, Steubenville Catholic; Isabella Earley, Weir; Alyssa Jezierski, Brooke; Mia Pietranton, Madonna; Christopher Schmidt, St. Clairsville and Thomas Ryncarz, Wheeling Central.

Festival organizers also took time Wednesday to honor Rita Carapellotti, this year’s Italian-American of the Year. Carapellotti is a first-generation Italian-American, born to Italian immigrants Francesco and Assunta Accordino.

Carapellotti and her late husband, business leader Michael Carapellotti have been longtime community supporters.

Following her husband’s passing, the family created the Michael B. Carapellotti Charitable Foundation, which supports transplant recipients in Pittsburgh.

Carapellotti and her family have continued to make significant contributions to Ohio Valley business, developing Franciscan Square in Steubenville and opening Harp and Habit Irish pub. In 2019, Franciscan University honored her for her significant community contributions, which includes serving on the Foundation board of Trinity Health System and being an active member of Triumph of the Cross Parish.

For more information on the 2024 Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, visit italyfest.org.


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