Celebrating Italian-style

Italian Fest set for Saturday in downtown Iron Mountain

THE CROWDS IN THE food tent at the 2017 Italian Fest in downtown Iron Mountain. This year’s event is Saturday. (Chris Tomassucci/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Iron Mountain will celebrate its Italian heritage Saturday with the 12th annual Italian Fest.

Sponsored by Systems Control, the event is set for 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the parking lot across from the Dickinson County Library.

“Many of the favorite contests and events are back, along with several new additions,” said Paula Craven, Downtown Development Authority program director.

The opening ceremony will be 11:30 a.m. on the downtown stage.

Anastasia Lee performs from noon to 1 p.m. Lee is a previous Italian Idol winner from the competition that was part of past Fests.

“She has gained more and more recognition over the years,” Craven said. “She’s also is a favorite with many at the fest.”

A fun returning activity is the pizza dough toss that starts at noon, sponsored by Antonio’s Pizza in Iron Mountain. A dozen children ages 3 to 12 will participate, with the winner being the child who has the highest and best toss.

“Kids have so much fun with this event and everyone enjoys watching them,” Craven said.

The kids area, open from noon to 3 p.m. for ages 12 and younger, will feature bounce houses, face painting and balloon animals. It is free to festival attendees and sponsored by Bay College.

The Italian Fest king and queen will be crowned at 1 p.m. on the stage. But the public can go to the website at www.downtownironmountain.com/italian-fest to nominate their favorite local Italian as royalty.

The popular Italian dinner toss kicks off at 1:15 p.m., with a thrower hefting ingredients such as pasta and sauce to a catcher, using cooking tins. The team with the most ingredients in their pail at the end gets the victory. Participants must be at least 6 years old.

“People love it,” Craven said. “It also gets a little messy.”

Albert Santoni at 1:30 p.m. will give a presentation on Iron Mountain’s Sister City in Italy, Sassoferrato.

“We will also have a booth set up for everyone to see pictures of the our Sister City, as well as information and facts about it,” Craven said.

The Frank Sinatra impersonator, Matt Walch, will entertain the crowd from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

New to the event this year is Family Feud — Italian-Style at 3:30 p.m., with local families answering Italian trivia questions. Two teams with at least four participants will be taken. The game host will ask the question and the first participant from either team to raise their paddle will answer. If they are correct, they earn a specified number of points; if not, the other team gets the opportunity to answer the question. The team with the highest amount of points by the end of the game wins.

Another fest favorite is the Grape Stomp, which has taken place every year of the event. Four teams of two get going — using their feet — to smush, squish and stomp a bin full of grapes. This event starts at 3:45 p.m. and when time is up, the team with the most juice is declared the winner.

“What would Italian Fest be,” Craven asked, “without the grape stomp?”

The Cadillacs will play classic rock and oldies from 4 to 7 p.m. That time also will feature a 5:30 p.m. performance by the U.P. Dance Academy.

The Italian Noodle Kissing competition starts at 7 p.m., with couples trying to re-create the classic moment in the Disney animated film “Lady and the Tramp” when the two dogs share a romantic plate of pasta. The couple that gets the loudest applause wins.

To sign up for any of the contests and events, go to www.downtownironmountain.com/italian-fest.

“We strongly encourage anyone who would like to participate in any of the events to do so immediately,” Craven said. “They are limited and fill up quickly.”

DJ Seismic will close out the festivities from 7 to 11 p.m.

“He is new to our event and will put on a full entertainment show for the crowd,” Craven said.

Organizers this year have added VIP tables for $150. The tables include eight admission tickets, reserved table from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., the family/business/group name displayed on the table and “front of the line pass” for food and beverage vendors.

Only two tables remained as of Wednesday, so those interested should make arrangements immediately, Craven said.

Food vendors include authentic Italian cuisine provided by Antonio’s Pizza, Crispigna’s Italian Market, Northside Noodle Company, Gigi’s Cannolis and Matilda’s Ears.

Another annual event that takes place along with Italian Fest is the Tour de Dickinson bicycle ride. Volunteers and participants in the ride will get a bracelet pass and are admitted free to Italian Fest.

The bike ride begins at 8 a.m. and starts and ends at Pine Mountain. It is coordinated by the Dickinson County Bike Path Committee and all funds raised go to support bike path activities, including path/trail development and maintenance.

“We are hoping for high numbers this year, especially with the weather looking nice,” Craven said.

Admission to Italian Fest otherwise is $8 at the door and free for children age 12 and younger.

The festival is a major fundraiser for the Downtown Development Authority.

“Everyone should know by participating in the event they are investing into the downtown,” Craven said.