Westport's Festival Italiano, now in its 27th year, will honor one of its founders during opening ceremonies on Thursday evening.
"Lou Santella passed away few months ago and we want to remember him," said Roberta Delladonna-Troy, executive director of the festival. "We will present Lou's wife, Marge, with a crystal bowl." Opening ceremonies begin at 8 p.m.
Santella founded the festival along with Peter Romano, John Guintas and Bill Chappa.
This year's event runs July 8-11. The event will kick off Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with a parade down Riverside Avenue, Saugatuck Avenue and Franklin Street to festival grounds under the direction of Parade Master William Vornkahl.
The Grand Marshals will be Timmy and Roz Romano.
As always, music will play a big part during the fair's four nights. However, this year, there is a change in the traditional line up, due to the death of Johnny Maestro who performed at the fair each year with his group, The Brooklyn Bridge.
"We will miss Johnny," Delladonna-Troy noted. "He performed with us for 26 years running."
Live entertainment begins at 6 p.m. Thursday with the Tony Reno Band. A medley of show tunes, performed by high school students involved in Westport's Staples Players begins at 9 p.m.
Headlining Friday night are The Legends and The Del Rays. Shows are from 7 to 11 p.m. Taking the stage Saturday night are two bands, Déjà vu and the Duprees.
Italian music will be broadcast all afternoon Sunday. In the evening, Tony Costas will take to the stage from 1 to 3 p.m., and I'Liguri, featuring Lino and Pino, will perform an eclectic mix of modern and traditional accordion music, from 4 to 6 p.m. Emil Stucchio is at 7 p.m. and the 2010 Festival Italiano closes with The Brooklyn Reunion playing Doo-Wop music.
A performance of operatic and classic music will also be performed Sunday by Westport native Lucia Palmieri, a soprano who has performed at the New York Grand Opera. Palmieri will also assist in opening the Festival Italiano on Thursday night by singing the national anthem.
Festival Italiano is a celebration of Westport's Italian heritage that attracts children and adults throughout Southern New England, Westchester and Long Island. This family event has grown in attendance since its inception 26 years ago.
The hours for this year's event are 6 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, July 8, and Friday, July 9; noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, July 10, and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday, July 11.
A variety of food products for all tastes will be available for purchase during the festival.
Vendors will include Angela Mia Bakery (Italian desserts), Vino's at the Brickwalk (pasta), Bobby Q's Barbeque & Grill (ribs), Carvel (soft ice cream), Four Brothers (Greek food), Italia Restaurant (pizza and bruschetta), Jasmine (Asian selections), Westport Fishing Company (lobsters and clam chowder), Norwalk Sons of Italy (saugsage and pepper grinders and meatball grinders) and St. Ann's Club (pizza frite).
Hot dogs, hamburgers, zeppole and funnel cakes also will be sold, in addition to novelties and pet supplies.
The event, which takes at Luciano Park in Saugatuck, is a charity event that has distributed more than $1.7 million to over 40 charities since 1984.
A $5 admission fee will allow the Westport Festival Italiano, Inc. to work with nonprofit organizations and students seeking scholarships to help fund their education.
Among the many organizations that have benefited from this fundraiser include Aid to Children ( Croatian Fund), American Diabetes Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 399, Boys Town of Italy, Connecticut Junior Soccer Association, Staples Wrestling Team, Westport Senior Center and the Westport Historical Society.
The annual festival is organized by Westport Sons of Italy.
Sponsors include A. J. Penna Construction, Gault, Inc., Fairfield County Bank, Gilberties Herb Gardens, Izzo's Garden Mart, John Giunta Contractor, Pepsi-Cola, Westport Electric, Mario's Place, Renzulli Plumbing and Heating, KUCZO Tree and Lawn Care, Mitchells of Westport, Noelle Spa for Beauty and Wellness, TD Bank, Town of Westport and Westport National Bank.
Supporters include Aquarion Water Company, CL&P, United Rental and Advantage Waste Services.