Italian Festival

The west end of Indiana’s business district was packed during last year’s Italian Festival.

When Denny Della-Penna gazed into the distance at one point during last year’s inaugural Italian Festival on the west end of Indiana, he realized that his expectations for attendance at the festival had been exceeded right out of the gate.

Della-Penna said he was hoping at least 2,000 people would show up, given that it was the first year for the event. But during the third week of August last year, under warm, sunny skies, between 6,000 and 8,000 people were crammed onto the west end of Philadelphia Street.

So now that Della-Penna knows what to expect, he’s hoping the second edition of the Italian Festival, to be held on Aug. 18, will be just as successful. To boot, an expanded festival area will mean Indiana’s main drag is closed between Ninth and 13th streets.

Aside from the favorable weather, Della-Penna said the first event was a hit largely because of the different venue.

“There had never been an event at this end of town,” said Della-Penna, of Homer City.

The majority of events held in downtown Indiana, he said, are between Fifth and Ninth streets, often in IRMC Park on North Seventh.

The site is perfect, he said, because that area of town was at one time home to a heavy Italian population.

And, now that the Philly Street Station restaurant has opened for business, they’ll be included among the participants along with his establishments, Bruno’s and H.R. Stinehouse, plus Nap’s Cucina Mia and Josephine’s Pizzeria.

All eight vendors from last year, plus some others, are expected back.

Also returning will be a kids’ zone (including various games and a bouncy house), a food pavilion and a stage for musical acts such as Dr. Zoot from Pittsburgh and Chicago-area rock-n-rollers Five Guys Named Moe.

Alcohol will again be served outdoors during the festival.

Aside from musical guests, there will be a classic car show taking place with the help of Tom Almes from AutoSport Co., across the street from Bruno’s.

Last year, the event raised about $4,000 for the Teddy Bear Fund Drive. This year, proceeds will go toward volunteer fire companies in Indiana and the surrounding areas.

“This is all about the community,” Della-Penna stressed.

Festival hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

While Della-Penna and other organizers are working out some of the final details, including a finalized schedule of events, he said he is looking for sponsors and more vendors. Plus he needs volunteers to help set up and tear down during the festival weekend. For more information, call Bruno’s at (724) 465-8493 or Della-Penna at (724) 422-9217.