The timing is a little off, but Collinsville will celebrate the Italian Carnevale during this weekend’s Italian Fest.
“It’s the Italian equivalent of the French Mardi Gras,” said Wendi Valenti, director of Collinsville Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not really Carnevale because that comes before Lent, but the theme is fun with all the masks and dressing up. It’s exciting.”
Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Portions of West Main, Seminary, Center and Clinton streets will be closed to vehicles, beginning about 5 p.m. Thursday.
The biggest draws are live music, dance and martial arts demonstrations on two stages and authentic Italian food, prepared and sold by civic organizations and local businesses.
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“Bagna cauda is my favorite,” said festival chairperson Leah Joyce, speaking of a warm Italian dip served with bread or vegetables. “I like anchovies and salty, olive-y things. I’m not a sweet eater.”
The Italian Fest Parade will kick off at 4 p.m. Saturday, leaving Main and Hesperia and going east on Main, north on Seminary and west on Clay, ending at Combs.
Jack Schmitt Ford-Lincoln sponsored a Facebook contest to pick a Carnevale king and queen this year.
“They will get a nice dinner out, and they’re riding in the parade,” Joyce said. “It’s new. We’ve never done this before.”
Traditional Italian Fest contests will be back, including the Grape Stomp, Bocce Ball Tournament, Diaper Dash and 5K Run/Walk. Organizers still are trying to build up the Paisan Peddle Push after a hiatus. About 45 bicyclists participated last year.
“You get to ride through the city in the middle of the night,” said event chairperson Patty Lutz. “It’s kind of cool. It’s different.”
The ride starts at 11:59 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot east of Collinsville Memorial Public Library. It’s open to ages 13 and older. Registration costs $12.
“All the money that we collect goes to Relay for Life,” Lutz said. “We’re giving away two bikes that evening, a boys and a girls. We just draw names from the registrations.”
In conjunction with Italian Fest, the library is hosting a viewing of the Italian film “Human Capital” at 6 p.m. Thursday and an exhibit, “Exploring Venice and the Veneto,” through Sept. 30. Area residents have loaned 10 Italian masks for the exhibit. Two belong to curator Annette Graebe, whose grandparents immigrated from the Veneto region.
“One is a typical Venetian mask that I purchased in Venice,” she said. “It might be worn to a ball during Carnevale or to some other event. It’s full face, not just the eyes, and it’s ornately decorated.”
Also on display are reproductions of leather Commedia dell’Arte masks worn at Carnevale hundreds of years ago. They’re owned by Robert Henke, a Washington University professor.
Kids can get in on Carnevale fun at the Italian Fest children’s activity area, which opens at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
“The Habitat for Humanity Restore will have a booth called ‘Make It and Take It,’ where children can make their own masks,” Joyce said.
Italian Fest will have 32 food vendors this year, along with wine and beer sales. Live bands range from Babaloo, which is kid-oriented, to Eastside Acoustics, the Italian Community Band, Rickie Lee Tanner, Cut-N-Dry, Slick Ice Blues Band, Matt Powell, Dirty Muggs and Incognito.
“People should come (to the festival) not only for all of the awesome authentic Italian food and constant entertainment on two stages,” Joyce said, “but also because all of the food and drink sales benefit nonprofit organizations. All of the money goes back into the Collinsville community.”
At a glance
What: Italian Fest
Where: Downtown Collinsville (portions of West Main, Seminary, Center and Clinton streets closed to vehicles)
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Parade: 4 p.m. Saturday (begins at Main and Hesperia, goes east on Main, north on Seminary and west on Clay, ending at Combs)
Children’s area: Opens at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Parking: Try your luck downtown or ride a free Madison County Transit shuttle from Dorris Intermediate School, 1841 Vandalia, from 3 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday
Information: Call 618-344-2884 or visit www.italianfest.net
Italian Fest schedule
11 a.m. — Opening ceremony, venndor booths and children’s area open
Noon — Grape Stomp
12:30 to 3:30 p.m. — Music by Eastside Acoustics
1:30 to 3:30 p.m. — Music by Italian Community Band
4:30 to 5:30 p.m. — Babaloo (children’s entertainment)
5:30 p.m. — Gracefully Yours Dance Academy
6 p.m. — Music by Rickie Lee Tanner
6 p.m. — Music by Cut-N-Dry
7 to 10 p.m. — “Dereoke” with WIL-FM’S Derrick Keith
9:15 p.m. — 50/50 raffle drawing
8 a.m. — Italian Fest 5K Run/Walk (registration begins at 6:30)
8:15 to 9:30 a.m. — Run/Walk entertainment by Late for Work
9 a.m. — Kids Fun Run
10 a.m. — Bocce Ball Tournament (Glidden Park)
11 a.m. — Children’s area open
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Music by Slick Ice Blues Band
11:30 a.m. — Music by Matt Powell
Noon — Diaper Dash (registration begins at 11)
Noon to 3 p.m. — Collinsville Fire Department open house
2:30 p.m. — McArther's Tae Kwon Do demonstration
4 p.m. — Italian Fest Parade
5:30 p.m. — Music by Dirty Muggs
5:30 p.m. — Premier Martial Arts Demonstration Team
6 p.m. — Music by Incognito
9:15 p.m. — 50/50 raffle drawing
11:59 p.m. — Paisan Peddle Push (registration begins at 10:30)