Italian Festival Returns to Peekskill This Weekend

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Last year's Feast of the Assumption procession during the Peekskill Festa Italiana. This years procession will be on Sunday. Photo Credit: Art Cusano
Last year's Feast of the Assumption procession during the Peekskill Festa Italiana. This years procession will be on Sunday. Photo Credit: Art Cusano

PEEKSKILL -- The city’s Italian feast will return bigger and better for its second year fhis weekend in the downtown. Last year’s inaugural event in the downtown drew thousands to Brown Street.

The event, which runs through Sunday, celebrates the Feast of the Assumption, named for the city’s Roman Catholic Church, The Church of the Assumption. This year the festivities began early with a kickoff concert at the Paramount Center, featuring Michael Amante and comedian Gumba Johnny.

The weekend will feature live performers on all three days. On Friday, Mary Mancini and Mario Tacca will perform, as well as Frank Sinatra tribute artist Doug Ferony and dance rock party band Over the Top.

On Saturday, party band Big Kahuna, romantic Italian tenor Michael Castaldo and traditional Italian dance band The Carozza Brothers will take the stage. On Sunday, Doo Wop and oldies favorite Dennis Dell and contemporary dance band Melillo Brothers will perform. There will also be marionette shows three times a day on Saturday and Sunday for the kids, as well as carnival rides, sand art, face painters, stilt walkers, cartoon characters and games of chance. And of course, there will be plenty of food.

A full schedule of this weekend’s festivities can be found below.

The Festa Italiana Committee has just announced the recipient of this year’s “Distinguished Italian Citizen” award, who will be honored at the opening ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday evening. This year’s recipient is Salvatore (Sal) Scaramellino, who, along with his late wife Margaret, worked their entire careers as the proprietors of one of Peekskill’s favorite restaurants, the now closed Sorrento’s. To be eligible to win this award one must be of Italian decent, have lived or worked in Peekskill for a good number of years and must have had a positive effect on the city.

Here are excerpts from Thursday’s announcement: “Decades of Peekskill residents grew up eating at, and in many cases working at, Sorrento’s. Bussing tables and making pizza at Sorrento’s was the first job for many of Peekskill’s youth. Sorrento’s was the place where many frozen or wet commuters found refuge while waiting for that last train. And many who had missed that last train were invited to spend the night on a couch in the Scaramellino home, a gesture that truly went above and beyond the call of duty of even the most hospitable restaurateurs. Meeting at Sorrento’s was like meeting at City Hall. Much city business was conducted there, and city officials could tell how popular or unpopular a decision they made was by the discussions that ensued at Sorrento’s. Even the New York Jets had a tradition of having dinner at Sorrento’s prior to closing training camp and beginning their season. It is hard to understand how, in addition to running a very busy restaurant, Mr. Scaramellino had time to be involved in so many worthwhile organizations, but he did. He was a founding member of the Jan Peek Golf League, a member of the Peekskill Elks club, and a friend of the Assumption Church and School. He was a supporter of The Peekskill Ambulance Corps, the Peekskill Volunteer Fire Department, the Peekskill Community Hospital (now Hudson Valley Hospital Center), to name a few. He also sponsored many Lopolla Little League Teams as well as other local sports teams for both boys and girls."

The judging for this year’s Festa Italiana Tomato Sauce War is under way, and a winner will be crowned this weekend. Ten entries survived the first round and will now face the ultimate challenge at the finals. Festival goers will be able to enjoy the competition as the drama unfolds on stage this Sunday at 4 p.m., when celebrity judges, Kacey Moribito of WHUD, Matt Sampson of News 12, Tenors Michael Amante and Micheal Castaldo, plus legendary Peekskill High basketball coach Lou Panzanaro join the judging team to help select the winner. The judges in the preliminary round, local food aficionados Frank Apicella, Richard Bisignano, Tom Leigh, Dave Pearl and Wendy Ribeiro, all agreed that the competition was very close and feel that the finals may require several elimination rounds to determine the winner.

Festa Italiana 2011 schedule

Friday, Aug. 12 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. • 5 p.m. - Opening Ceremonies • Boy Scout Color Guard, American and Italian National Anthems, • Greeting by Mayor Mary Foster and presentation of “DISTINGUISHED ITALIAN AMERICAN CITIZEN" Award, Father Higgins (Blessing) • 6:30 p.m. - Mary Mancini & Mario Tacca • 8 p.m. – Doug Ferony Orchestra - Sinatra Tribute • 9 p.m. - Over The Top & John Barresi with Dance Expressions 

Saturday, Aug. 13 Noon – 11 p.m. • 12 p.m. - Peekskill Middle School Band - “Bakklash” • 1 p.m. - Magic Show with Magical Memories** • 2 p.m. - Antonia Arts Dance – Tarantella • 3 p.m. – Harry Rios Word of Mouth • 4 p.m. - Melillo Brothers with Dance Expressions • 5 p.m. – The Carozza Brothers – Italian Favorites & Dance • 8 p.m. - Micheal CASTALDO - Italian Tenor • 9 p.m. - The Carozza Brothers – Contemporary Dance 

Sunday, Aug. 14 Noon - 9 p.m. • 12 p.m. - Mass at The Assumption Church • 12 p.m. - The Andy Polay Band • 1 – 2 p.m. - ASSUMPTION CHURCH PROCESSION & BLESSING (No alcohol served at this time throughout the Procession period) • 2:30 p.m. - Mary Mancini & Mario Tacca • 4 p.m. - Tomato Sauce Wars judging and awards and new car raffle drawing • 5 p.m. - Dennis Dell – The Many Voices • 6 p.m. – Michael Castaldo – Italian Tenor

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