Probably, among the many initiatives of Fr. Casto Marrapese, the starting 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.

Faith – Family – Friends

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)
Bob Stoll (2017)
Anthony Sciambi (2017)

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
Savko and Romanelli Families
Gallo’s Tap Room
Gallo’s Kitchen
Mike Rosati (2016)
Milano’s Restaurant (2017)
Villa Milano (2017)

Columbus Italian Festival Chairpersons

Frank Oliverio* (1980)
Vic Pasini* (1981)
Benny Andreoni* (1982)
Judge Frank Redax (1983)
Pat DeNardo* (1984)
Jack Conie, Jr. (1985)
Carl Festa* (1986)
Carl Festa* (1987)
Mario Macioce II and Gilda Savko (1988)
Alex Andrietti* (1989)
Donna Salvatore* and Judge Frank Reda* (1990)
Gene D’Angelo and Helen Jaconette* (1991)
Nick Colley* (1992)
Gene D’Angelo (1993)
Mike Cua (1994)
Pat Rossetti (1995)
Richard DiPaolo* (1996)
Mary Russo Ulbrich (1997)
Jim Behal (1998)

Patrick Tiberi (1999)
Toni Gillespie and Angelo Nocera (2000)
Ray Massa and Antonio D’ Alberto (2001)
Gerry Paglione and Margaret Panico-Harn (2002)
Charles Agriesti* and Joe Mercurio (2003)
Bruna Brundige and Vince Militello (2004)
Bruna Brundige and Vince Militello (2005)
Tony Sciambi and Margaret Panico-Harn (2006)
Margaret Panico-Harn and Pat Rossetti (2007)
Joe Contino (2008)
Joe Contino and Bill Brundige (2009)
John Contino and Andy Dominianni (2010)
John Contino and Andy Dominianni (2011)
Landa Masdea Brunetto and Carol Ristucci (2012)
Landa Masdea Brunetto and Carol Ristucci (2013)
Landa Masdea Brunetto and Carol Ristucci (2014)
Rick Brunetto and Tina Solazzo (2015)
Rick Brunetto (2016)
Michael Cua and Mario Cua (2017)

* (Deceased)

Columbus Italian Festival Pastors

Reverend Casto Marrapese, P.I.M.E. (deceased), 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 2014-2015
Deacon Felix Azzola, Reverend Anthony Lonzo
Church Administrators 2015
Reverend Anthony Lonzo 2016
Reverend Robert Kitsmiller 2017

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