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Jeannette's Ascension Church prepares for Italian festival

| Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
PHOTOS: John Howard | The Jeannette SPirit
Cassidy Vehar, 4, enjoys her pizza.

Debi Fleming, along with her cohorts, Hilda White and Diana Winfield, are feverishly preparing for one of Jeannette residents' favorite summer events, the Ascension Church Italian Festival — set for this weekend.

After working in the bingo hall in 1998, Fleming was asked by her close friend, White, to co-chair the food tent, with items including roast beef sandwiches, fried dough and the much sought after hallmark of the festival, pasta fagioli.

She's done it ever since.

It's a lot of work.

Meetings begin in March and wrap up each September, when the committee covers the finances and closes the books on the event, evaluates the income that was generated and if the weather was an influence on the number of attendees and volume of sales for that year.

Gladys Peltier is stepping down as the main cook and is mentoring Cathy Duez through her first year as the main cook.

They begin in late June by shopping, cooking and freezing items that will be sold for the event, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Volunteers are still needed, and organizers are interested in any amount of time a person can provide.

“Without the volunteers, none of this would happen,” Fleming said. “It takes a lot of work and dedication, but it helps the church.”

Fleming has been keeping a weather eye out, as well, as turnout depends heavily on whether there will be too much rain or temperatures that soar into the 90s. The festival occurs rain or shine. So far, she said, it looks good.

The activity also includes donations from several Jeannette businesses, including DeLallo's, Dairy Queen, Christopher's Pizza, C&S, Enrico's Bakery and Antoniak's Market.

The basket raffle, which includes some impressive prizes, is dependent upon the generosity of Ascension's parishioners, who donate items to be included. In addition, the bake sale also hinges upon families preparing the food at home, at their own expense, to sell at the festival to benefit the church.

While the event is a church-held fundraiser (one of the two biggest — the other is a spaghetti dinner in the fall), everyone in the community is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Fleming is especially proud that the generosity of the parish “extends into the community of Jeannette.”

Visitors to this year's festival will note some changes. There will be fewer small tents to accommodate larger ones instead. The larger tents can protect from both rain and the hot sun, and the beer tent will be closer to the food.

The Italian Festival begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, with Ray Jay and the Carousels providing music for the Polka Mass. They take the bandstand from 6-10 p.m.

On Sunday, the event runs from 3-10 p.m., with Little John and his ATM Band playing live music from 6-10.

As always, the food is the biggest feature of the ethnic affair, featuring homemade pasta, sauce and meatballs, meatball sandwiches, hot and sweet sausage sandwiches, pizza, Italian roast beef sandwiches and pasta fagioli.

Additional items include hot dogs, with or without sauerkraut, fries, ice cream, snow cones and fried dough. Small games of chance and chuck-a-luck, both manned by volunteers, will be offered for children and adults.

Anyone who wants to volunteer can call the church office at Sacred Heart at 724-523-2560.

Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.