Special to the Tribune-Star
Where can you find authentic Italy and be welcomed as an “honorary Italian” during Labor Day weekend in the Wabash Valley? Only in Clinton can visitors find themselves taking a step back in time and enjoying a piece of history created by Italian immigrants. Clinton became the home of many Italian families and has maintained its roots since the town’s beginning.
The 47th Annual Little Italy Festival begins Friday with the parade kicking off at 6 p.m. The Italian vegetable cart is wheeled through town, signifying the beginning of the Labor Day festivities. The parade route begins on North Ninth Street and runs through town. See a genuine gondola, past royalty including Re & Regina’s, former Queens of Grapes, a variety of floats, marching groups and the Zorah Shriners.
The current Re & Regina, John and Diane Scott, as well as the 2012 Queen of Grapes, Jessica Leach, will make an official appearance. All former royalty will be honored with a special ceremony on Friday at the Main Stage. Also on Friday, guests can enjoy fireworks as the official kickoff to the festival.
Visitors are invited to make their way through town via Clinton’s famous “wagon-rides,” by car or on foot. Visitors can stop along the river, where the festival grounds are centrally located.
At the grounds, there is non-stop entertainment, food and numerous activities for all age groups. There will be two stages of entertainment (a main and a south stage). A complete list of scheduled events can be found in the Italian newspaper “Bulletino.” Stop at any local business or vendors to pick up a copy.
An open-air market, carnival rides for children, and craft tents will also be on hand for visitors to enjoy. Sample local BEANO (Bingo), Italian miniature golf and the famous salami and cheese wheel game. Participate in grape stomping, spaghetti eating contests and learn the art of preparing Italian cuisine. Among other events are the cupcake wars, Italian cooking school, arts at the fountain and the Italian cook-off. Popular stops for guests also include the historical Coal and Train Museum and The Mercato (Italian Store).
The festival grounds are home to many talented singers, dancers, and performing groups. Nashville recording artist Abbi Scott will perform during the festival along with LeDune and Reedy, Highway 58 Band and Terry Lee & the Rockabilly Band. Also providing entertainment will be: the Vicki West Dancers, South Vermillion Cheerleaders, Mia Cvengros, Matthew Westerfield, Amy Jo Potter, the Italian Singers, the Lemon Brothers Band, the Coon Holler Kids, Pete Carrera, Brandon Sciotto, Clarissa Lewis, the Little Feet Dancers, Kristen Natalie, Travis Dillion, Dog N Suds Band, Tumble Mania and more.
The Wine Gardens on North Ninth Street will offer guests time to sit and relax. There will be ample daytime family hours, as well as evening musical acts to be enjoyed by visitors over the age of 21.
Monday’s events include the Clinton Optimist Club’s annual Duck Race, which takes place along the Wabash River, and the Italian Auction, an opportunity for everyone to take home a piece of Italy. Fireworks along the river will bring an end to the festival.