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Mount St. Peter festival opens in New Kensington

Most people attending Mount St. Peter Church's "Festa Italiana" will cite the same thing when asked what makes the annual festival --- the food.

While the food is an attraction to the three-day festival that opened Thursday night, it's sustenance is something more, according to long-time festival participant, Vince Milito of Arnold.

Milito described what makes the festival special by saying: "The Italian tradition which we inherited from our ancestors the moment they set foot on Ellis Island."

Mary Calvanese, chairman of the Festa committee, could not agree more.

"We try to strive for a festival that keeps our tradition of family -- la famiglia --and that's not just the family of Mount St. Peter, but the family of the community, of New Kensington, Arnold, Lower Burrell ...," she said.

The Festa, which continues tonight and Saturday, is in its 26th year.

"This is definitely our biggest fundraiser," Calvanese said. "It has, over the years, allowed us to make many, many improvements in the church, and it's never been used for operating costs."

This year's edition of Festa Italiana features musical entertainment all three nights for the first time.

The Buddy Lee Orchestra performed Thursday night. Tonight's band will be Rick Farenelli Big Band Sounds, and The Cavaliers will play Saturday.

Also for the first time, an Italian folk dance troupe, "I Paesani" will entertain. The dancers are scheduled to perform Saturday.

There also is bingo and games of chance. And, of course, the lasagna, spaghetti, cannoli, pasta fagioli and pizzelles.

For Jennifer Pallone of New Kensington, the short wait for the vanilla cannoli to be finished was worthwhile.

"They're definitely my favorite Italian pastry and probably my favorite pastry overall," Pallone said. "I like seeing everyone from town, but the food is always an attraction."

As they sat listening to the mellow sounds of Buddy Lee, Phyllis Cavaliere Rukas of Vandergrift and Marian Sbroglio Ireland of Brackenridge discussed why they enjoy coming to the Festa.

"I love it for the meatballs, for the spaghetti, the music -- I love the music -- and the people," a smiling Rukas said. "It's just a good old fun festival."

Ireland said she enjoys the festival for an obvious reason: "Because I'm Italian."

"I enjoy the festival because I like to be around people," she added. "It's just a nice festival."

But you don't have to be Italian to enjoy this event as Dr. Michael Contes of New Kensington, who is of Greek ancestry, can attest.

"My wife is Italian, plus the food is great. It's the best lasagna I've had anywhere and I don't usually like lasagna" Contes said. "It's a fun place to be."

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