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Review: Columbus Italian Festival full of good food, dance, weather

The Columbus Italian Festival, which started in 1980, kicked off last Friday with the traditional San Giovanni Dancers, otherwise known as St. John’s Italian Folk Dancers.

Their performance spurred a weekend filled with Italian culture and cuisine.
This year’s Columbus Italian Festival was graced with a weekend of beautiful autumn weather which resulted in a large number of festival-goers.

A memorable new event that was added to the festival’s repertoire this year was the Mangia Mia. This competition had visitors submit their best Italian home cooking recipes to be voted on by judges or the general public. If recipes scored well on taste, presentation, creativity and verbal presentation (during the judging), entrants stood the chance of winning $250 in gift cards and bragging rights for being the best Italian cook around.

I’m positive the Mangia Mia recipe contest will snag a permanent place in the Columbus Italian Festival lineup, but the overall array of Italian food available to eat and enjoy was mouth-watering in itself. If a food heaven did exist, it would be at the Columbus Italian Festival. The spicy sausage was cooked to perfection while Italian food providers lined the streets, offering anything from gelato to spaghetti.

Visitors flocked to the basement of St. John the Baptist Italian Catholic Church for the most delicious and true-to-Italy lasagna one could hope to find in Columbus. For those of us who have grown tired of the campus cuisine, the home cooking was a welcome breath of fresh air.

Each year the Columbus Italian Festival promises authentic Italian food and rarely, if ever, do they disappoint, but while I slurped up that last string of spaghetti and munched on a warm piece of garlic bread, the fun and festivity that is live entertainment was undeniable.

While the San Giovanni Dancers appeared four times over the course of the weekend, the audience could enjoy an impressive variety of talent. Performer Bill Antoniak charmed viewers on Friday night with his extensive experience playing the accordion while professional singer Lisa Dellarossa performed both Saturday and Sunday.

As Italian musicians serenaded and visitors swooned, a high point of the weekend came Sunday afternoon when the highly-anticipated parade began. The parade showcases all the high school marching bands who decided to enter the competition and potentially win the Columbus Day Italian Parade Champ Trophy along with a large cash prize. There are few crowning achievements a high school band could hope for greater than that of the Columbus Day Italian Parade Champ Trophy. The excitement in the air was almost palpable.

In addition to the delicious food and skillful performers was the simple yet endearing joy of all the Italian festival workers. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be a part of such a unique and exceptional experience. My own best way to commemorate this joyful display was to force photo ops with as many Italians as I could find. I think they were more than happy to oblige and spread the “amore.” I would like to say I even found the Ohio version of Snooki, but unfortunately, the Columbus Italian Festival is too classy for matters of Jersey Shore meatballs and guidos.

The festival’s web page insists that “the Columbus Italian Parade is a celebration of all things Columbus and Italian and Italian Columbus.” Over the course of Oct. 11-13, this statement proved more than true. It was a happy weekend of festivities for all attendees, and I look forward to being first in line for next year’s excitement and adventures.

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