The big 3-0: Italian Fest begins Friday in Collinsville

News-DemocratSeptember 18, 2013 

Italian Fest is turning 30, and Collinsville is ready to party.

Tens of thousands are expected to attend this weekend's street festival, which doubles as a homecoming and celebrates the city's Italian heritage.

"It's a great way to see people you haven't seen in years," said chairman Missy Tillman. "Some of the (Collinsville High School) classes build their reunions around it."

Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

As usual, portions of West Main, Seminary, Center and Clinton streets will be closed to vehicular traffic, beginning about 5 p.m. Thursday.

The festival is best known for its authentic Italian food, prepared and sold by civic organizations and local businesses, as well as wine and beer.

"For some, this is their biggest fundraiser of the year," Tillman said.

Italian Fest entertainment will range from live music to dance and martial-arts demonstrations on three stages.

One of the biggest lineup changes is the absence of St. Louis-based Italian singer Tony Mirabelli, a festival staple for more than two decades.

The committee went with another Italian act, the Vince Chiarelli Combo, based in Rockford, for Friday and Saturday.

The combo pays tribute to Chiarelli's grandfather, who led a band by the same name in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. They perform Italian and Sicilian music, as well as standards from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tom Jones.

"We're just trying to do something a little different this year," Tillman said. "As much as people want to experience the past, they also want something new."

Other bands in the line-up are Sunset Amusement, East Side Acoustics, Borderline, Tough Love, Out of Focus, the Avery Hill Band, Johnny Rock-Itt and the Double Wide Symphony, Spaghetti Western and Mister T and the Houseshakers.

The Italian Fest parade marches through town at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will begin at Main and Hesperia streets, go east on Main, north on Seminary and west on Clay, ending at Hesperia.

"The theme is 'Happy Birthday, Italian Fest,'" said organizer the Rev. David Amsden. "We're right at about 50 participants."

That includes floats, the Collinsville High School marching band and other units.

The grand marshal is Karrie Brown, 17, of Collinsville. She has made national news with her modeling aspirations, despite her Down syndrome.

"It's just an incredible story," Amsden said. "She has nearly 20,000 followers on Facebook."

The Italian Fest children's area will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Other activities include a 5-kilometer run, Kids Fun Run, Diaper Dash, Grape Stomp, bocce ball tournament and "Dereoke" with WIL-FM's Derrick Keith.

The festival committee will sell an updated version of its 25th anniversary Italian Fest cookbook at the souvenir stand.

"Every recipe has a wine pairing from Jerry Dallape at Dean's Liquors," said Alene Hill, Collinsville Chamber of Commerce media coordinator.

Organizers also will open a "time capsule" (filing cabinet) that has been stored in Collinsville Memorial Public Library's basement for 30 years.

They're inviting local businesses and organizations to submit items for another capsule.

"It will be opened on the 50th anniversary of Italian Fest," Hill said.

The festival committee strongly encourages people to avoid parking problems this weekend and ride a free Madison County Transit shuttle. It will run between downtown Collinsville and Dorris Intermediate School on Illinois 159 from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

An exhibit called "Italian Fest: A Salute to 30 Years" will be open this weekend in the library's west wing.

"This is a time to create new memories while looking back and reminiscing on past years," Tillman said.

At a glance

What: Italian Fest

Where: Downtown Collinsville (portions of West Main, Seminary, Center and Clinton streets)

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Admission: Free

Parade: 4 p.m. Saturday

Children's area: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Parking: Try your luck downtown or ride a free Madison County Transit shuttle from Dorris Intermediate School from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. both days

Information: Call Collinsville Chamber of Commerce at 618-344-2884 or visit italianfest.net

Italian Fest schedule

Friday

11 a.m. -- Vendor booths open

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Children's area open

11:30 a.m. -- Opening ceremonies

11:30 a.m. -- Holy Cross Lutheran String and Chorus

Noon -- Grape Stomp

Noon to 4 p.m. -- Sunset Amusement (acoustic rock)

12:30 to 4 p.m. -- East Side Acoustics (acoustic modern and classic rock)

1 to 5 p.m. -- Vince Chiarelli Combo (Italian and pop standards)

5 to 5:30 p.m. -- Gracefully Yours Dance Academy

5:30 to 6 p.m. -- Premier Martial Arts demonstration

6 to 10 p.m. -- Borderline (modern country and rock)

6 to 10 p.m. -- Tough Love (classic rock and country)

6:15 p.m. -- Out of Focus (classic rock)

Saturday

8 a.m. -- Italian Fest 5K Run

9 a.m. -- Kids Fun Run

9:30 a.m. -- Run awards

10 a.m. -- Bocce ball tournament (at Glidden Park)

11 a.m. -- Diaper Dash

11 to 11:30 a.m. -- Heavenly Rhythm Dance Studio

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Children's area open

11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. -- Avery Hill Band (classic rock)

Noon -- "Dereoke" with WIL-FM's Derrick Keith

Noon to 4 p.m. -- Vince Chiarelli Combo

2:30 to 3 p.m. -- McArther's Tae Kwon Do demonstration

4 p.m. -- Parade

5:30 to 6 p.m. -- Premier Martial Arts demonstration

5:30 to 9:30 p.m. -- Johnny Rock-Itt and the Double Wide Symphony ('80s and '90s rock)

6 to 10 p.m. -- Spaghetti Western (classic rock)

6 to 10 p.m. -- Mister T and the Houseshakers ('60s and '70s rock and blues)

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