La Festa Italiana will be held Labor Day weekend (Friday through Monday, September 1-4, 2017) on Courthouse Square in the heart of downtown Scranton, Pa. Hours are Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Monday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 As usual, more than 80 vendors will be offering great Italian food, and continuous live entertainment will be featured on multiple stages around the square. There is no admission charge.

 This year’s event again coincides with First Friday in the city, giving visitors a full array of entertainment, culinary and cultural activities at nearby venues – all within walking distance.

Opening night will feature one of the festival’s most popular acts: The Cameos, New Jersey's favorite oldies band, will be on the main stage at 7 p.m. The Cameos are a talented eight-piece oldies/vocal harmony group who create and perform their own unique renditions of the most popular songs of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Closing night will feature one of America's top show bands, The Infernos. From oldies to Motown, from steamy hot Jazz to the sounds of today, this band with its rich harmonies does it all and does it well. On the music scene since 1977, their performances are geared to entertain people from one spectrum to another and they have audiences on their feet throughout the concert.

In recent years, their fame has grown and they have had opportunities that even the most famous main-stream bands would only dream of including the following performances: for President Barack Obama; three New Jersey Governor’s Inaugural Balls; concerts in China and Italy; opening for the famed group “Chicago”; and over 200 county and municipal concerts.

A variety of other continuous live entertainment for both young and older tastes is presented on the Main Stage, which this year will be located in the heart of Courthouse Square – the entrance of the beautiful building surrounded by magnificent monuments. Two other stages will be used to feature live music from some of the area's best bands as well as acts for the children each day.

Among the many other acts that will perform are the famous Poets on Sunday night, featured vocalists Emily and Vincent Ricciardi, comedian Uncle Floyd Vivino, Ray Massa’s “EuroRhythms” from Ohio, Frank Sinatra tribute (Chris DiMattio), 100th Birthday Celebration for Dean Martin (Andy DiMino from Las Vegas), a Connie Francis tribute featuring Nikki Rasmus, Los Vega New York Italian Show Band, the Italian Continentals, Gene Dempsey Orchestra, Old Friends, Flaxy Morgan, University of Scranton Jazz Band, plus many others including jugglers, magicians, street acts, cooking demonstrations, favorite local bands and dance groups. One of those groups featured will be Paul LaBelle and the Exact Change as they celebrate 50 years of magnificent music in Northeast Pennsylvania!

The annual Mass in Italian will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 3, in St. Peter’s Cathedral, located one block from the festival site. The Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Madison and a native of Dunmore, will be principal celebrant as well as homilist. The Mass will also be televised live by CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.

Fireworks will be displayed on Sunday night.

For more information and the complete entertainment schedule, visit the festival Web site at: www.lafestaitaliana.org.

La Festa Italiana will literally hit the ground running with the James R. Minicozzi Memorial 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, Sept. 2, at 10 a.m. The race is being sponsored by the Scranton Chapter of UNICO, the Italian-American service organization, and proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Pre-registration for the race can be obtained by contacting Jack Trapani at 570-878-3780 or unico5k@gmail.com, or sending the $20 entrance fee by check made out to UNICO National-Scranton Chapter, P.O. Box 278, Dunmore, PA 18512.

Festival patrons are also invited to Lackawanna Railfest ’17, hosted by the nearby Steamtown National Historic Site Sept. 3-4. Shuttle transportation will be provided between La Festa and Steamtown. For details on Railfest, visit www.nps.gov/stea.

La Festa Italiana: A History of Proud Heritage

One of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s most cherished traditions is La Festa Italiana, the three-day celebration of culture, cuisine and music that brings together people of all ethnic backgrounds from near and far.

La Festa Italiana was initiated in 1976 when communities across the country were celebrating our nation’s 200th birthday.

The Italian-American community wanted to do something to contribute to the celebration and thought of a festival as a gift that could keep on giving.

Community leaders helped to organize the event. The local Italian parishes, businesses and fraternal organizations were invited to participate.

Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton was chosen as the site because it is the city’s equivalent of a “piazza,” the plaza of a typical town in Italy. The piazza is the center of the community. That’s where they have festivals to honor the saints, and it’s the place where the citizens gather to discuss politics and socialize. Artists display their works while musicians entertain.

The inaugural festival was scheduled for a Sunday over the Columbus Day weekend. The night before, there was a fire at the former Hilton Hotel on North Washington Avenue. The next morning, the building was still smoldering, there were fire equipment and water in the street, but the festival went on.

About 40 vendors set up along the North Washington Avenue side of the square, and an estimated crowd of 20,000 patronized the event.

Over the next few years it was not fire but the fickle nature of October weather that toyed with the fortunes of the festival. One year the temperature went down to 18 degrees.

Episodes like that convinced the organizers that La Festa needed a change of season, so in 1981 the event was moved to the Labor Day weekend and has been held at that time ever since.

In 2015, in response to requests from vendors and festival goers, the event was expanded from three days to four and is now held Friday through Monday.

La Festa has become a holiday tradition that satisfies everyone's appetite for a good time with good friends. Vendors now occupy all four sides of Courthouse Square, offering a wide variety of Italian cuisine. Ah, the food! Italian cooking is a vibrant expression of the good life. In fact, the cooking of the Italian peninsula was the first full developed cuisine in Europe.

And no trip to La Festa is complete without a stop at the cappuccino tent, which provides the relaxing atmosphere of an outdoor café in Italy.

Another revered highlight of the festival is a Mass on Sunday morning in nearby St. Peter's Cathedral. The Mass is celebrated in the Italian language. Traditionally the Bishop of Scranton presides at the liturgy.

And what would a party be without music? At La Festa there is plenty of it – three days and nights of free, continuous live entertainment to suit anyone's tastes. The featured performer is an accomplished Italian vocalist. The tradition started at the first festival with Al Martino and has continued with names like Bobby Arvon, Nelson Sardelli, June Valli - the “Lucky Strike Girl,” Moreno Fruzzetti, Emil Stucchio and The Classics, The Duprees, Italian Soprano Christine Fontanelli, Italian Tenor Christopher Macchio, Carmelo Raccuglia, local Sinatra impersonator Chris DiMattio and a host of others. Acts like The POETS, The Four Aces, the Italian Sounds, Hi-Lites, Gene Dempsey Orchestra, King Henry and the Showmen, Los Vega, The Eurorhythms, and the Italian American authentic Paci Band, local dance troupes and the jazz bands from Marywood University and The University of Scranton are among the festival favorites.

It's no wonder that people come from throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states to enjoy La Festa. Some estimate that nearly 150,000 people will jam the Square over the three days.

A number of local non-profit and fraternal groups that set up stands raise money for charity.

The La Festa Committee takes the same approach. There is no admission charge for visitors, but each vendor is assessed a fee to participate. This is used to cover operating expenses, with surplus funds going to various local charities.

The festival organizers, a relatively small group, are dedicated volunteers who work for months to plan and stage the event.

It is a tribute to the Italian-American community that for so many years we have been able to have this festival for our friends and neighbors. The committee – all volunteers – works very hard and everybody associated with the festival is very proud to host it.