History of Italian Festival

Probably, among the many initiatives of Fr. Casto Marrapese, the start-
ing of an Italian Festival is the one that really helped St. John’s and
the Italian community.

Many will remember when the Catholic Bishops of the United
States declared 1980 the year of the family. It was a way of sounding
the alarm about the dangers threatening the unity and sanctity of the home. Concerned about his parishioners, Fr. Casto began to dream of an extraordinary event that would make the American/Italians proud of their heritage and at the same time be an incentive to remain faithful to their religious and moral values. Father discussed the project with a group of parishioners, and after having reviewed various possible events, an annual Italian Festival was the unanimous choice.

To express the purpose and goals of the festival, Father proposed
as a theme..Faith – Family – Friends”.  Later, in an article written for
the parish bulletin, he explained why that motto. “The reason is simple:
These three elements represent the basic characteristics of the Italian
people and their culture.

The date of the first Italian festival was set for the weekend of
September 20th and 21st 1980. The location chosen was the most
central and accessible possible, the Lausche Building on the Ohio
State Fairgrounds.

A chairperson and a committee was selected for each activity of
the festival. To make sure that all functioned properly was the responsibility
of the General Chairman, Mr. Frank Oliverio.

After months of intense preparation, the hopes were running very
high but not as high as it turned out to be. Everyone including Fr.
Casto felt that a crowd of four or five thousand people would be
fantastic; well, over ten thousand people came, generating a clear
profit for the church of $26,000.00. It must be said that such a crowd
generated also a big traffic jam on 17th Avenue and even on I71. The
following day, in Section B of the Columbus Dispatch, under the
headline “Overflow Crowd Celebrated Italian Heritage”, it was stated,
“Columbus’ first Italian Festival at the Lausche Building was such a
success that it suffered from an unusual pain: too many people, causing
the fire marshal’s ordering the closing of the building a couple of
times.” To avoid the repetition of similar inconveniences, arrangements
were made immediately to use the Multipurpose Building for
the future festivals beginning with 1981.

A couple of weeks later, at the recognition party for the workers,
Father told those present, “My heart is filled with great joy and gratitude
to God for giving us the inspiration and the strength to do what we have done.

In 1999 the Columbus Italian Festival was moved to its current home on the grounds of St. John The Baptist Italian Catholic Church.  As one of Columbus’ premier festivals it now annually attracts over 35,000 visitors.  Each year on Columbus Day weekend the Italian community comes together in a 3 day celebration with the finest in food, entertainment and Italian culture.  This year we proudly celebrate the 38th year of the Columbus Italian Festival.

 Columbus Italian Festival Hall of Fame

The Columbus Italian Festival Hall Fame honors all our inductees for their incredible vision, drive and work ethic for the creation and betterment of the Columbus Italian Festival.

Joseph Agriesti          2002
Monica Ventresca     2002
Carmella Ristucci       2002
Father Casto Marrapese, PIME 2002
James Behal               2003
George Clifford          2003
Julius Maselli              2003
Benny Andreoni        2004
Adam Carfagna           2004
Pat Denardo              2004
Helen Jaconette          2005
George Paesano Sr.   2005
John Piacentini           2005
Charles Agriesti          2005
Landa Masdea Brunetto 2006
Carolyn Panico           2006
Danny La Penna             2006
Mary Connell Quaranto     2006
John Fabbro                      2007
Margaret Panico-Harn     2007
Gilda Romas Savko            2007
Judge Frank Reda               2007
Annabelle Clifford              2009
Joanne Merendo                2009
Mike  (Natale) Maratea      2010
Builders of the Santa Maria 2011
Joe Colak, Danny Ristucci, Nick Savko,
Merico Faiella, William Pavetta, John De Stefano,
Carl Ventresca, John De Matteo
Adam Montemarano        2011
Joseph Pishitelli       2012
Rev. William A Metzger 2012
The Women Volunteers of the Italian Festivals 1980-2013
Teresa Marzetti        2013
Claudio Pasian and the San Giovanni Dancers 2014
Bud Fuller        2015
Vincent Militello    2015
Patrick Rossett         2015
Amalee Soteriades    2015
John Contino     2016
Carol Ristucci      2016
Ken Monte     2016

 Taste of Italy past honorees:

Jimmy Corrova and TAT
Stella Chapin of Casa di Pasta
The Militello / Carfagna Families
Berwick Manor Party House
RDP Food Service DiPaolo Family
San Giovanni Dancers and the
Savko and Romanelli Families
Gallo’s Tap Room and Gallo’s Kitchen
2016 Honoree
Mike Rosati

Columbus Italian Festival Chairpersons

1980 Frank Oliverio*
1981 Vic Pasini*
1982 Benny Andreoni*
1983 Judge Frank Redax
1984 Pat DeNardo*
1985 Jack Conie, Jr.
1986 Carl Festa*
1987 Carl Festa*
1988 Mario Macioce II and Gilda Savko
1989 Alex Andrietti*
1990 Donna Salvatore* and Judge Frank Reda*
1991 Gene D’Angelo and Helen Jaconette*
1992 Nick Colley*
1993 Gene D’Angelo
1994 Mike Cua
1995 Pat Rossetti
1996 Richard DiPaolo*
1997 Mary Russo Ulbrich
1998 Jim Behal
1999 Patrick Tiberi
2000 Toni Gillespie and Angelo Nocera
2001 Ray Massa and Antonio D’ Alberto
2002 Gerry Paglione and Margaret Panico-Harn
2003 Charles Agriesti* and Joe Mercurio
2004 Bruna Brundige and Vince Militello
2005 Bruna Brundige and Vince Militello
2006 Tony Sciambi and Margaret Panico-Harn
2007 Margaret Panico-Harn and Pat Rossetti
2008 Joe Contino
2009 Joe Contino and Bill Brundige
2010 John Contino and Andy Dominianni
2011 John Contino and Andy Dominianni
2012 Landa Masdea Brunetto and Carol Ristucci
2013 Landa Masdea Brunetto and Carol Ristucci
2014 Landa Masdea Brunetto and Carol Ristucci
2015 Rick Brunetto and Tina Solazzo
2016 Rick Brunetto

Columbus Italian Festival Pastors

Reverend Casto Marrapese, P.I.M.E. *, Festival Founder

Pastor for Festivals 1980-1990 at The Ohio State Fairgrounds

Monsignor Mario A. Serraglio

Pastor for Festivals 1991-1998 at The Ohio State Fairgrounds

Reverend William A. Metzger

Pastor for Festivals 1999-2013 at the Church Grounds in Italian Village

Reverend Antonio Carvalho

Church Administrator 2014-15

Deacon Felix Azzola, Reverend Anthony Lonzo

Church Administrators 2015

Reverend Anthony Lonzo 2016-


Big Events!

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If you have any questions or concerns please visit the staff page and find the correct person to call or email. If you are not sure who you should contact, please call 614-294-8259.

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We are located at 720 Hamlet Street in Columbus, Ohio 43215.

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