San Rocco in the 90's



Beaver County Times
"Beaver County’s HOMETOWN Daily Newspaper"
Aliquippa, PA., Thursday, August 2, 1990


San Rocco Festa


The 65th San Rocco Festa is dedicated to men who brough to life Aliquippa's Italian heritage. They are: Cesare Biancucci, Pio Colonna, Domenic Montini, Joseph Paladini, Domenic Rinaldi and festival will be celebrated from Aug. 10 through 12 on Grand Avenue, Sheffield Terrace.

Free shuttle bus service from Mellon Bank, Newell Street, and IGA Supermarket, Main Street, New Sheffield will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 10, 5 p.m. Aug. 11 and 1:30 p.m. Aug 12 and will end each day at 12:30 p.m.

On Aug. 10, Duquesne Light Co. will sponsor a Kids Korner at 7 p.m., the 1990 San Rocco crowning will begin at the Metropolitan Symphonic Band (formerly known as the MPI Band) directed by Walter Iacobucci will perform at 7:30 p.m. and C'est La Vie sponsored by USAir will begin at 9:30 p.m.

On Aug. 11, the blessing of dogs by the Rev. ROn Cellini and a homemade wine competition will begin at 10 a.m., a homemade sauce competition, food service and games at 5 p.m.; the Kids Korner and musical review to be presented by John Michael Zov at 7 p.m.; "Puttin' On the Hitza," a lip synchronization at 8 p.m.; the Metropolitan Symphonic Band at 9 p.m. and fire works at 11:30 p.m.

A Mass at 8:45 a.m. at St. Titus Catholic Church, Franklin Avenue, will open San Rocco events Aug. 12. A procession will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of Main and 16th streets, Hollywood. On Grand Avenue, a morrs tournament, food service and games at 1:30 p.m.; a spagetti-eating contest at 2:30 p.m.; a performance by the St. Cajetan Italian Orchestra at 3 p.m.; a musical review to be presented by Mary Ann Palombo and RIch Shyan at 5 p.m.; a performance by ministars from the Benedum Center, Pitsburgh, at 6 p.m.; a performance by the Famiglia Ferro Italian Folk Artist at 7 p.m.; a tarantella dance competition at 8 p.m.; a performance by the Metropolitan Symponic Band at 9 p.m. and an Italian doll dance withe flares at 11 p.m.

Liguini with broccoli or tuna fish dinners will be served Friday, homemade gnocci and rigatoni dinners Saturday and homemade spagetti and lasagna dinners Sunday. Other foods to be available are Italian pastries, Espresso and Cappuccino coffee, french fries, funnel cakes, fruit dipped in chocolate, gyro sandwiches, pizza, Italian ice and spumoni.


Wednesday, August 8, 1990

San Rocco Festival will honor its founders


ALIQUIPPA - The 65th annual San Rocco Festival will be held this weekend on Grand Avenue in Aliquippa. Opening remarks to the festival will be given at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

This year's festival is dedicated to thos men who brought life to Aliquippa's Italian heritage. Those honored include Cesare Biancucci, Pio Colonna, Domenic Montini, Joseph Paladini, Domenic Rinaldi and Francesco Vallecorsa.

The 1990 San Rocco wine will honor the festival's fouders. The label is a special edition that features portraits of the founders. There also will be a blush commemoratie wine.

Free parking and bus service for the festival will be available each day at the Mellon Bank on Newell Street and the far lot of the OGA Supermarket on Main Street. Bus service will be available beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. It will end each following morning at 12:30 a.m.

The festival will include homemade wine and homemade sauce competitions, food and games, booths, fireworks, Metropolitan Symphonic Band concerts, folk dancing and other activities. Concerts will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday.

The 1990 San Rocco Crowning will occur after opening remarks Friday. C-Est LaVIe, a musical program sponsored by USAir, will be presented at 9:30 Friday night.

The blessing of the dogs will be given at 10 a.m. Saturday.

A musical review by John Michael Zov will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday. A lip-synch competition will be held at 8 p.m. A fireworks display is set tot go off at 11:30 p.m.

A new San Rocco banner will be unvieled for the first time during the procession Sunday morning.

A musical review by Mary Ann Palombo will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday. She will be accomanied by Rich Shayan. The Civic Light Opera's Mini Stars will perform at 6 p.m.

The festivities will be capped off by the Italian Doll Dance with falres at 11 p.m. SUnday.

Dinners for the festival will be linguini with broccoli or tuna on Friday, homemade gnocci or rigatoni Saturday and homemade spagetti or lasagna Sunday.


Sunday, August 12, 1990

San Rocco Festival goes to the dogs



Tammy, a poodle held at right by owner Joan Weiss off Hopewell Township, recieves a blessing fro mthe Rev. Ronald Cellini. The dog, who has cancer, also recieved a pat and good wishes from Cellini. The "Blessing of Dogs" was held Saturday as part of Aliquippa's San Rocco Festival. The festivities continue through today, with the finale of an Italian Doll Dance at 11 p.m.


Monday, August 13, 1990

San Rocco festival pays

tribute to event creators


Although Cesare Biancucci, Pio Colonna, Domenic Montini, Joseph Paladini, Domenic Rinaldi and Francesco Vallecorsa are no longer with us, their spirit was alive and well SUnday morning during the procession of the festival these men brought to Aliquippa.

The Plan 12 and Sheffield Terrace sections of Aliquippa bustled with excitement as the city's Italian community lined the streets to watch and participate in the 65th annual San Rocco Festival.

This year's procession was made more meaningful by the San Rocco Cultural Committee's decision to dedicate the festival to these six men who in 1925 brought the festival they had celebrated in their native Italy to Aliquippa.

The procession began on Main Street and proceeded roughtly two miles through Plan 12 and Sheffiled Terrace before ending up at the Musical and Political Italian Club on Grand Avenue.

Along the way, people hugged one another while saying "Viva San Rocco." Children scrambled for candy thrown from an Aliquippa fire truck; residents passed out cold drinks and individuals pinned money to the new San Rocco banner.

"Your nationality and heritage are wrapped up in this," said Eugene Frioni, 35, of Aliquippa who was one of the 30 men who had the honor of carrying the statue of San Rocco. "You will find people who don't live here anymore coming back for the festival ."

The tradition of lining the streets and greeting the San Rocco procession began in the small town of Patrica, Italy, centries ago.

Celebrants said St. Rocco, who died a martyr in a French prison more than 600 years ago, is venerated by the peopleof Patrica because his prayers once cured the sick in that poor village.

Biancucci, Colonna, Montini, Paladini, Rinaldi and Vallecorsa continued the tradition in Aliquippa after immigrating from Patrica.

Various elements made up the parade: the new San Rocco banner; the 50-piece Metropolitan Symphonic Band (formerly MPI Band); the newly painted St. Rocco Statue; a picture of St. Rocco; and a car containing the San Rocco Court.

Miss San Rocco was Mira Prigoric, 13, of Aliquippa, and Little Mr. and Miss San Rocco were Gerry Sansini, 4, of Aliquippa and Kimberly Reszetylo, 8, of Center Township.

Kimberly's mother, Kathy, who grew up in Aliquippa, said her daughter is carrying on a family tradiation. She said that when she was a child, she was what was then called "Little Miss MPI" twice. "My family was always involved," Mrs. Reszetylo said.

Gina Rozzi-Carifo, 30, a native of Hopewell Township who is now living in Baltimore, Md., said she and her husband Jim, 30, an Aliquippa native, always come back for the celebration.

Rozzi-Carifo said she and her husband named their son, Jon Rocco, after the saint.

Edward J. Paladini, 64, of Aliquippa, who is the oldest member of the Metropolitan Symphonic Band, said he has marched in every San Rocco Parade since 1936 except one. "I missed 1945 because I was in the service."

"It is part of our Italian heritage," Paladini said. "We strive to nourish and cherish what our parents brought back from the old country."


Festival participants march in procession through the Sheffield Terrace section of Aliquippa Sunday during the San Rocco Festival.



Beaver County Times
"Beaver County’s HOMETOWN Daily Newspaper"
Beaver Valley Home Edition

Friday, August 16, 1991


Musicians reuniting for San Rocco Festa


Aliquippa - More than 30 musicians are expected to gather at the MPI Club in the Sheffield Terrace area of Aliquippa this weekend for the San Rocco Jazz Band Reunion.

The performance featuring former members of the San Rocco Jazz Band, will begin at 8:30 p.m. Sunday as part of the 66th Annual San Rocco Fest. THe festival will be held tonight through Sunday on Grand Avenue and Jackson Street in Aliquippa.

All of the musicians are natives of Aliquippa. Lee Tolfa of Beaver Falls, a retired music teacher and Mo Scarazzo, musical director at Bally's in Las Vegas will front the band.

"I've been in the music business all of my life," says Tolfa, 67. "One day Vince (Biancucci) and I were sitting around talking and he said he had a dream, to get one fantastic jazz band with old members of the band."

"So he started contacting people. Now people are coming in from all over the country. These are professional musicians who are all paying their own expenses to do this. Wow. It's going to make a terrific show. Vince was nice enough to ask me to front the band and I'm glad to do it."

A graduate of Duquesne University, Tolfa started playing the trumpet when he was 13 years old. His band, the Lee Tolfa Quartet, frrequently performs in clubs throughout the area.

"I've been to quite a few (of the festivals) ... But it's been many years since I've been there to perform, I'm really looking forward to it. For a lot of the musicians, this is the first time in a long time a lot of these guys will be coming home to perform."

The band will perform arrangements written by Joe Campus of Clairton, former arranger for Enzo Stuarti, Benny Benack and the University of Pittsburgh. Scarazzo, Bob Persi and Ralph Lalama also have prepared arrangements.

Admission to all festa activities is free. Free parking and bus service to and from the festa are available. Visitors can park at Mellon Bank on Newell Street and at the IGA Supermarket on Main Street. Bus service ends at 1 a.m. each day.

The booths will open at 6 tonight. Tonight's activities include a performance by Carla the Clown at 7, opening remarks will begin at 7:30. The evening will end with a performance by C'est La Vie. Bus service begins at 6.

Homemade wine and a homemade sauce competitions will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday. Bus service will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, All booths will open at 5 p.m. The day's activities will include performances by Reunion Gigolo's at 6 p.m. and the Metropolitan Symphonic Band at 9:30 p.m. A fireworks display, accompanied by Ballabe Band, will begin at 11"30 p.m.

Sunday's activities will include a fastest spagetti eating contest at 4 p.m.; a Tarantella eating contest at 4:30 p.m.; a performance by the Showstoppers, 5 p.m.; a performace by Carla the Clown, 7 p.m. Bus service will begin at 4 p.m. Also, all booths will open at 4 p.m.

More information is available by calling 378-8287.

San Rocco Festa

6 p.m. Bus service
6 p.m. Booths
7 p.m. Carla the Clown
7:30 p.m. Opening Remarks
  1991 San Rocco Crowning
7:30 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band Director Walter Iacobucci
9:30 p.m. "Puttin' on the Hitza" Adult lip sync
10:30 p.m. C'est La VIe
10 a.m. Homemade wine competition
10 a.m. Homemade sauce competition
10:30 a.m. Blessing of dogs Festa Location by Rev Ron Cellini
5 p.m. Bus Service
5 p.m. Booths
6 p.m. Reunion Gigolo's Italian comedy from Cleveland, Ohio
6 p.m. Carla the Clown
7 p.m. "Puttin' on the Hitza" Children lip sync
8 p.m. Reunion Gigolo's Act 2
9:30 p.m Metropolitan Symphonic Band
11:30 p.m. Fireworks accompanied by Ballabe Band
8 a.m. Recieving San Rocco Banner
8:45 a.m. Liturgy St. Titus Roman Catholic Church Franklin Avenue, Aliquippa
10:30 a.m. Procession assembles Corner of Main and 16th Street, Plan 12
4 p.m. Bus Service
4 p.m. Booths
4 p.m. Fastest Spagetti Eating Contest
5 p.m. Showstoppers
6:30 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band
7 p.m. Carla the Clown
8:30 p.m. Reunion All-Star Jazz Band Musicians from local area returning
11 p.m. Italian Doll Dance with Flares accompanied by Ballabe Band


Three members of The Showstoppers keep things rolling at the 66th Annual San Rocco Festa Sunday in Aliquippa. They are, from left, Joanne Thomas, Dave Hodge and Joyce Sipes. The weekend event was packed full of activities, including a San Rocco Jazz Band Reunion and a fireworks display.



Aliquippa, PA., Friday, August 14, 1992

Italian heritage shines with San Rocco Festa


ALIQUIPPA - The 67th annual San Rocco Festa will bring the sights and sounds of Italy to Sheffield Terrace in Aliquippa this weekend.

The event, which features Italian music and food, begins today and continues through Sunday on Grand Avenue and Jackson Street. Activities will begin at 6 p.m. today and Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

"San Rocco is not just for Italian people,: says Marianne Polfa, a coordinator for the event. "The festa is open to everyone, and everyone comes. The people who attend could be of any ethnic or religious background. Many people are from Aliquippa, but many are not. We don't exclude anyone. The event really brings people together for some time of fun."

Activities will include the annual San Rocco Jazz Band Reunion, "Back to Back," featuring Aliquippa natives, who will perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Kids Take the Stage, an amateur hour featuring the talents of area youths, will begin at 7:45 p.m. Saturday. A fireworks display by Zambelli Internationale will begin at 10 p.m. Saturday.

Sunday's activities will include the San Rocco Litury at 8:45 a.m. at St. Titus Catholic Church on Franklin Avenue. A procession will begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Main and 16th streets in Plan 12. Aliquippa residents of Italian descent will carry the San Rocco banner down Main Street, along 20th Street and up Grand Avenue in Sheffield Terrace.

The annual event is in honor of St. Rocco, the patron saint of Patrica, Italy. St. Rocco was born in 1340. He distributed his wealth among the poor and took a vow of poverty when he became a young man. When a disease known as the "pestilence" was rampant in Italy and France, it was said St. Rocco went among the ill and cured many people by praying for and making a sign of the cross over them.

"We're celebrating our heritage," Polfa says. "But the festival brings everyone together. It's unbelievable how peoplelook forward to this event every year. It's almost like it's become a place where you can renew old acquintances and see people you haven't seen in a long time. It's nice to be able to celebrate your heritage with peopl you care about."


This year's San Rocco procession will begin at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in Aliquippa.


6 p.m. Booths open
7 p.m. Carla the Clown
7:30 p.m. Opening & 1992 crowning
7:30 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band
10 p.m. Rudy Zetz and 4th & Main


6 p.m. Booths open
6:30 p.m. The Modern Magic of Nicholas Carifo
7 p.m. Carla the Clown
7:45 p.m. Kids Take the Stage (amateur hour)
9 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band
10 p.m. Fireworks by Zambelli Internationale
10:30 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band


8 a.m. Recieving San Rocco banner
8:45 a.m. San Rocco Liturgy (St. Titus Catholic Church, Franklin Avenue, Aliquippa)
10:30 a.m. Procession, Main and 16th streets, Plan 12
4 p.m. Boths open
6:30 p.m. Beaver County Swing Orchestra
7 p.m. Carla the Clown
7:30 p.m. Back to Back - Jazz Returns
9 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band
10:30 p.m. Award Presentations
10:45 p.m. Italian Doll Dance (accompanied by Ballabe Band)



Aliquippa, PA., Sunday, August 16, 1992

San Rocco Festival: A touch of 'old country magic


ALIQUIPPA - Most women in their right minds would not give up a week of their lives to babysit 50 ponds of beans.

But then, most women do not know the magic, and the madness, that comes with being Italian during Aliquippa's annual San Rocco Restival.

Eleanor Simoni knows that magic and the madness and she knows what it takes to turn 50 pounds of hard, pale yellobeans into 225 pounds of the traditional Italian munchy food called lupini.

"It took my whole garage," the Admiral Street resident sand Saturday as she stood behind the food booth where sandwich-sized bagd of goodies were being sold.

It also too patience.

Patience to soak the beans for a day.

Then more patience to wash them and boil them.

And still more patience to soak the beans again, for seven days actually, changing the water three or four times each day, and tending the nuggets as they become heavier, and denser, with each days bath.

"Have one," Simoni said to a visitor.

"With salt," said Sylvia Rozzi of Hopewell Township.

"Like this," said yet another woman in the booth manned by members of the Aliquippa High School Class of '52 reunion committee.

And so it went Saturday evening: People sharing food. People sharing tradition. Stangers talking to strangers. Friends reuniting with friends.

Such is the spirit of San Rocco.

For 67 years, Aliquippa's Italian community has kept a big of the "old country" alive with a festival in honor of St. Rocco, patron saint of Patrica, Italy. It was from that region than many of Aliquippa's early immigrants came, and the "festa," as they called it, was a link to their past.

Today, the festival, with its music and its game booths, shows, and its food and fellowship, still serves as a tie, a reminder of those who came before.

Shirley Ross of Aliquippa's Minn Street was reminded. For a moment Saturday evening, she thought hard of her father, Americus Benaquisto, who'd come each year to watch the events on the festival stage. He died in January.

"I used to put chair right here for him," Ross said, wiping her eyes.

But Saturday was a happy time for Ross as well.

Her sister, Claire Stini of Richland Hill, Texas, had come back as she always does for San Rocco. And the two, along with a third sister, Cathy Reszetylo of Center Township, were pushing Cokes from a mini trailer.

"This is definitely a big reunion time," said Wille Castanza of Brighton Township.

Costanza, a co-chair of this year's festival, grew up on Second Avenue in Aliquippa's Plan 11 section. He remembers the Sunday morning processions that passed by his boyhood home, and the women who'd hand "chiambelli" - bready Italian doughnuts - to the priests and the band members and the lucky few who carried the statue of San Rocco.

Bill Fontana gew up in Ambridge, and went on, later in life, to live and work in Hawaii. Still, each August, he times his vacation to coincide with the San Rocco festival. He comes to see relatives who still live in Aliquippa. And he comes for the food.

"Funnel cake and gnocci," he says. "We don't get that kind of food in Honolulu."

By 8 p.m. Saturday, several hundred peopl filled the few blocks of Grand Avenu and Jackson Street where the festival was being played out. They caught Nicholas Carifo's magic act and a youth talent show where 6 year old Lyndsay Petruny of Center Township captured first place, and a few hearts, with her rendition of "God Bless the ISA".

The festival continues today. Food booths, for Italians and those who wish they were, open at 4 p.m.

Eleanor Simoni promises more lupini beans.



Six-year-old Lyndsay Petruny, daughter of Joseph and Karen Ptruny of Center Township, won a few hearts and first place in the youth talent show with her rendition of "God Bless the USA".




No Clippings available


Friday August 12, 1994

San Rocco festa restores
time-honored traditions


ALIQUIPPA - They celebrated the memory of San Rocco last summer with love.

St. Titus Catholic Church was standing room only at Mass. Some 300 people followed the statue of San Rocco, the patron saint of Patrica, Italy, in a procession throught the streets of Aliquippa. And most ate the traditional spagetti and meatballs dinner.

Some things, though, were missing - the entertainment, game booths, Italian pastries and traditions that made the festival so memorable for so many years.

"There was an ache in our hearts when we were going through the procession because we knew what it could have been," says Arlene Costanza Sustar, a co-chairwoman of the 69th Annual San Rocco Festa.

What the festa could have been is what the 30-member San Rocco Cultural Committee hopes it will be this weekend - a three-day festival honoring San Rocco and an annual reunion of sorts.

"San Rocco is the time when you get to see a lot of people that you dont normally get to srr," says Sustar, 43, whose memories of San Rocco go back to her childhood days in Plan 11. "It is like an annual reunion for people who moved away. They come from all over to see it."

The three-day festival begins tonght, continues Saturday evening, and ends after day and evening activities Sunday. It has a new location this year, with the help of the city and the Aliquippa Youth League: Lefty Cepull Field on Main Street in Plan 12.

The 1993 festival was a one-day event, not by the committee's wishes but because of the situation: The festa had simply outgrown the four-block residental Sheffield Terrace location.

Residents in that area complained about the noise, garbage, traffic and fireworks to Aliquippa Council in 1992. The committee shared those concerns and knew then that the 1992 festival would be the last on Sheffield Terrace, says Sustar, who lives in Center Township. Attendance had swelled from about 5,000 in 1986, when the tradition that began in 1925 was revived, to nearly 20,000 in 1992, she says.

Plans to hold the 1993 festival at the Greek Community Center on Davidson Street in Plan 12 fell through in June 1993 - too late, Sustar says, to find another suitable location.

The Lefty Cepull Field is about a block away from residences, Sustar says.

No streets will need to be blocked off, and Sustar estimates there's triple the amount of space available.

That means the number of food, game and other booths has increased from 20 to 28 this year and the children;s area is larger. New this year is a baseball throw and a hockey game. Pony rides popular years ago are back again each evening. There's also facepainting and the traditional food booths featuring chiambelle (sweet Italian doughnuts), Italian pastries and other ethnic and American foods, as well as entertainment.

"This year we are going to ask each adult for a $1 donation that will go striclty to the charitable works committee," Sustar says. That committee will give the money away. Past recipients have included McGuire Memorial Home for SpecialChildren in Daughtery Township and Aliquippa Hospital, she says.

Tonight's entertainment begins with the Metropolitan Symphonic Band, directed by Walter Iacobucci of the Pittsburgh area, at 8 p.m. followed by "A Little Bit of Italy" with Marianne Opsatnik of Center Township at 10:15 p.m.

Saturday evening's entertainment schedule includes VL-1 (Voices of Light in 1) Christina rock and mime youth group from St. Frances Cabrini Church in Center Township at 6:30; magician Bob Mullins in the children's area and Carla the Clown at 7; Mount Carmel Italian Band at 7:30; fireworks at 9:30; and musical selections from "Godspell" by Aliquippa High School students at 10.

The San Rocco Liturgy is at 9:15 a.m. Sunday at St. Titus Catholic Church on Franklin Avenue. A procession begins at 11 a.m. at the Lefty Cepull Field.

The San Rocco banner will be carried down Main Street, along 20th Street in Plan 12 and up Grand Avenue in Sheffield Terrace.

A sold-out buffet dinner follows at the Musical Political and Italian Club on Grand Avenue at 2:30 p.m. followed by another evening of festivities at the field. Rudy Zetz and 4th and Main will perform at 6; Carla the Clown at 7; the Maetropolitan Symphonic Band at 8, followed by the award presentations at 10:15.

The festival ends with the traditional Italian Doll Dance at 10:30.

After the festival, Sustar says the committee will evaluate how things went and decided on a location for the coming year.

"We're hopeful that we are on our way to finding a permanent site," she says.

And as for this weekend?

"I think that it will be extremely special. When you look at the committee people you will see a lot of lumps in their throats and laso tears in their eyes. This is showing everyone that we are very much alive and well,"Sustar says.


A three-day celebration of San Rocco returns to Plan 12 in Aliquippa,where it was help in the late '60s and early '70s.


6 p.m. Booths
7:30 p.m. Opening ceremony & 1994 crowning, Carla the Clown, Hamburglar, Grimace
8 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band
9:30 p.m. "Puttin' on the Hitza" Adult lip sync
10:15 p.m. "A Little Bit if Italy," Marianne Opsatnik, vocalist
6 p.m. Booths open, Iceburgh the Penguin Mascot
6:30 p.m. VL-1 (Voices of Light in 1), Christian rock and mime
7 p.m. Bob Mullins, magician; Carla the Clown
7:30 p.m. Mount Carmel Italian Band
9:30 p.m Fireworks
10 p.m. Musical selections from "Godspell" (Aliquippa High School)
8 a.m. Recieving of San Rocco Banner
9:15 a.m. San Rocco Liturgy, St. Titus Parish, Franklin Avenue
11:30 a.m. Procession begins at Lefty Cepull Field, Festa site
12 Noon Morra Tournament, MPI Club, Grand Avenue, Sheffield Terrace
2:30 p.m. Buffet dinner at MPI Club, (sold out)
4:30 p.m. Booths open
6 p.m. Rudy Zetz Fourth & Main (rock, swing, oldies)
7 p.m. Carla the Clown
8 p.m. Metropolitan Symphonic Band
10:15 p.m. Award Presentations
10:30 p.m. Italian doll dance with the Ballabe Band




Sunday August 14, 1994

Annual San Rocco festival: 'It's a tradition'


ALIQUIPPA - It was a family reunion, of sorts, for people who weren't related.

Gray-haired men offered firm handshakes and hugs for neighbors they haven't seen in years.

Women with thick bifocals chattered away about the good old days. And teenagers bet quarter after quarter at the row of gambling booths along the festivals entrance.

It was Aliquippa's 69th annual San Rocco Festa held to honor, San Rocco, patron saint of Patrica, Italy.

As the crown milled around the festival held at Lefty Cepull Field on Main Street in Aliquippa's Plan 12 neighboorhood, the Mount Carmel Band from Lowellsville, Ohio, played sets of Italian marching and opera music.

Booths set up around the edge of the festival offered varnival games,gambling and lots of ethnic food.


The Mount Caramel Band from Lowellsville, Ohio, plays Italian marching and opera music.



Monday August 14, 1995
'Everybody's Italian today'


ALIQUIPPA - Red, white and green - and plenty of it.

Aliquippa residents proudly marched the colors of Italy down their city-s streets late Sunday morning during a procession celebrating San Rocco Festa.

The colorful procession served as a high point to a three-day festival, which concluded Sunday evening.

The 70th annual event honored San Rocco, the 14th-century patron saint who protects against contagious diseases. Italian immigrants who settled in Aliquippa brought the San Rocco Festa tradition with them.

"This is the only tradition in Aliquippa that has stayed alive for 70 years," spectator Theresa Nero said. "I think the town needs that consistency."

Nero's 7-year-old daughter, Valentino Roma, and 6-year-old niece, ELyse Thomson, joined dozens of other children marching down Main Street in what amounted to a lively parade.

Two brass-and-percussion bands helped lead the parade, belting out Italian tunes, while people lining the streets waved Italian flags.

As the procession marched slowly along, firecrackers were ignited so spectators farther down the event's path knew what was coming their way.

The parade passed through the neighboorhood of Davidson Street residents Bryan and Janice Paul, who watched the event when they weren't keeping an eye on their active 2-year-old-twins, Mathew and Conrad. The Pauls eagerly watched the procession each year.

"This is a chance to touch base with people you haven't seen in a while," Mr. Paul said.

The procession began shortly after a special Mass at St. Titus Catholic Church on Franklin Avenue.

The procession included serious overtones, such as a group of white-robed men and boys carrying a heavy religious statue down the street.

But Marty DiGiovine supplied a touch of humor. He drove throught the parade in a '78 Buick Riveria, often hitting his cars special horn, which plays the theme from "The Godfather."

Numerous spectators watching the procession seemed to get caught up in all the ethnic excitement.

As Aliquippa resident Debbie Rebel pointed out, "Everybody's Italian today."

1995a Performers stage a traditional Italian dance Sunday at the San Rocco Festa in Aliquippa



Friday, August 9, 1996

It's time for San Rocco

Festa to feature new statue


ALIQUIPPA - Even though Paul Costanza left his hometown of Aliquippa in 1982, he still manages to come back almost every August for the San Rocco Fests.

This year, the 37-year-old sculpter, who lives in Gainsvill, Fla., is briging something special with him - a new statue of San Rocco.

The statue will be unveiled at tonight's kickoff to the 71st San Rocco Festa at Lefty Cepull Field in Aliquippa.

Costanza works for a company that produces "scenics" for amusement parks such as Disney World. Visitors to Universal Studios in Orlando can see his work on the "King Kong", "Jaws" and "E.T" rides.

He volunteered time in the past two and a half months to create the new statue of San Rocco, working from a photograph of the old statue.

The old statue, in use since 1968, was showing the wear and tear of beaing carried through the streets year after year. Its fingers had been broken and repaired, and it had be repainted many times.

The statue was also very heavy to carry in the traditional Sunday mornign procession, says Costanza, especially for men wearing heavy white robes in the middle of August.

"My uncle says the originla probably weighed 150 to 200 pounds," Constanza says. "Mine will weigh 25 pounds."

The new statue is made out of urethane foam covered with fiberglass.

The San Rocco Festa began in Aliquippa. Many residents there trace their roots to Patrica, Italy, where San Rocco is the patron saint; he is venerated as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases.

The festival is not sponsored by any particular church, says Eileen Leasha of the San Rocco Cultural Committee, although a special San Rocco Liturgy will be at St. Titus Catholic Church at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Rather, it is a community celebration.

"It's always been its own entity," she says. "There's a lot of tradition there."

Entertainment includes fireworks, food booths and live music.

A shuttle service will run from 5:30 through 11 p.m. each day from the Foodland parking lot in Plan 12.

1996a Paul Costanza poses with the new San Rocco Statue.




Sunday, August 11, 1996

'Everybody here is Italian for three days'

San Rocco Festa: Real Italian treat in Aliquippa

Festa to feature new statue


ALIQUIPPA - Voula Facaris smiled Saturday as she whipped up another batch of gyros and grape leaves at the San Rocco Festa.

Wait a minute.

Gyros and grape leaves at an Italian festival?

Isn't that like selling spagetti at a Greek celebration?

Perhaps, but Facaris reminded undaunted as the booths around her peddled past, pizzella, chambelli and other Italian treats.

There were enough hungry people roaming around Lefty Cepull Filed in Aliquippa to make an merchant happy.

Food clearly is a top-draw for those attending the annual festival.

Beer, authentic music and games of chance also bring people back each year.

Eugene Frioni sees yet another reason for the festival's annual success.

"It's the tradition," Frioni said.

Frioni's father participated in San Rocco festivities his entire life.

Frioni, 40, continued the tradition Saturday selling festival merchandise, such as golf balls emblasoned with an Italian flag and the words "Viva San Rocco."

His 17-year-old daughter, Christina has walked the festival's procession since she was 3.

Half the people who come to the festival don't live in Aliquippa; and many aren't even Italian, Frioni said.

"Everybody here is Italian for three days," he said.

The three-day event concludes today, highlighted by the 11:15 a.m. procession throught the streets of Aliquippa.

At 6 p.m. the booths reopen, operated by kindly Italian women like Jean Rosati and her sister, Phylis Bufallini, who traveled from her Arizona home to participate.

They and a dozen other women made the festival's three-day supply of chiambelli, the Italian version of a sweet bagel. Their efforts took hours.

"But it's so much fun rooling the dough and singing," Bufalini recalled. "Someone will tell a joke then someone will top that joke."

For a historical perspective of the festival, check out the booth operated by event co-chairmen Harry and Laverne Vallecorsa. Their booth featuresa photo album of San Rocco Festas dating back to the 1940's.

The festival began in 1925, launched by Aliquippans whose families hailed from Patrica, Italy.

San Rocco is the patron saint of Patrica, where he is venerated as the protector against the plagues and all contagious diseases.

Today's procession marks the festival's most reverent time, Laverne Vallecorsa said.

Other festival activities are meant as pure entertainment, such as Saturday and tonight's performances by singer Frankie Capri.

Capri is an Elvis impersonator who sings Italian songs while Simultaneously perfroming a puppet show. He, alone, would be worth the admission price - if there was one.

Although there is no admission charge, the San Rocco committee welcomes donations.



Cassidy Rizzo of Hopewell Township dances to the music of Frankie Capri of Pittsburgh at Saturday's San Rocco Festa in Aliquippa.


Friday, August 9, 1997

San Rocco

It's a little bit of everything Italian

ALIQUIPPA - The San Rocco Fest in Aliquippa is on the internet now, and the statue of San Rocco himself is made out of lighter, more high tech material than he used to be. But for the most part, the three-day event hasn't changed much in 72 years.

"It's so much a part of you," says Eileen Leasha, one of the organizers of this year's festival. "My son comes from New York and my daughter comes from Georgia. It's like a family reunion for so many people."

The festival at Lefty Cepull Field in the Plan 12 section of the city, is open to the public beginning at 6 p.m. today. A special San Rocco Madd begins at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at St. Titus Catholic Church, followed by a procession from Sheffield Terrace area to the festival site.

The festival, named for a frenchman who became the patron saint of Patrica, Italy, includes a little bit of everything; Italian music, food and children's activities.

Although donations has been taken in the past, this is the first time festival organizers are charging admission, says Leasha.

This year, she says, all admission fees will go to area charities such as the Woman's Center of Beaver County, the Salvation Army and McGuire Memorial Home.

Leasha notes another important milestone this year: Pearl Montini, the first female parade marshall in the festival's history.

Montini has been the chariwoman of the committee that makes the traditional festa chiambelli for 50 years, says Leasha. The chiambelli, similar to an Italian bagel, is passed out during Sunday morning procession.

Musical entertainment includes several appearances by the San Rocco Festa Band, a collection of area musicians under the direction of Jim Rizzo and Ron Romeo.

Amici, a West Virginia group that made its first festival appearance last year, is back, along with the Allegro Dance Company. Other featured musicians include Egidio Faiello, Frank Capri and an oldies band named Gingerbread.

The festival will present Italian lace maker Antonella DEilanni for the first time on Sunday. She will set up a display and give demonstrations all evening.

Food booths will offer rigatoni, spaghetti, broccoli, and linguine, hot sausage and meatball sandwiches, gyros, funnel cakes, pastries and more.

"We do a lot of food on Sunday especially," says Leasha, adding that there are tents where festival-goers can sit and eat.

Children's entertainment includes Beaver magician Bob Mullins performing his show at 7:30 p.m. today and 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Carla the Clown will entertain the little one with a program at 8 p.m. Saturday, and the Book Worms, a group of girls who act out stories for children, will bring books to life at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Children can also participate in games, miniature golf and face-painting.

The festival closes with a traditional Italian doll dance at 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Festival committee menbers Arlene Suster and Henry Bufalini don 7-foot costumes that resemble male and female baby dolls, says Leasha.

"They dance together like they're courthing, to about for or five traditional Italian songs. Then, fireworks attached to their arms go off."

Not to worry, says Leasha, the costumes are totally fireproof.

Free parking and bus service will be offered each night. Busses run from 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at the Foodland on Main Street, Plan 12.


An Elvis impersonator set up shop at previous San Rocco Festas.


6 p.m Booths Open
7:30 p.m. Opening - 1997 Crowning
8 p.m. "New" San Rocco Festa Band
9:15 p.m. Egidio Faiella "The Mandolin Man"
10 p.m. Oldies by Gingerbread
6 p.m. Music by Frankie Capri (side stage)
7:30 p.m. Allegro Dance Company
8:30 p.m. "Amici"
9:30 p.m. Fireworks
10 p.m. "Amici"
8 a.m. Recieving of San Rocco Banner
9:30 a.m. San Rocco Liturgy, St. Titus Church
11:15 a.m. Procession begins at corner of Polk & Division by Sheffield Terrace
6 p.m. Music by Frankie (side stage)
7 p.m. Big Band Director, Rizzo & Ron Romeo
8 p.m. Joe Marotta
9 p.m. Concert by San Rocco Festa Band
10 p.m. Raffle Drawings
10:30 p.m. Traditional Italian Doll Dance accompanied by the Ballabe Band

Sunday, August 10, 1997

San Rocco Festa in Aliquippa offers
something for everyone

ALIQUIPPA - Two-year-old Nicholas Miller made the rounds at Aliquippa's San Rocco Festa Saturday.

First he ate a plate of french fries with his sister, mother and grandmother. Then he plopped down on the grass to listen to storytellers dresses up like worms.

Miller's grandmother, Zorie, Miller, said she's glad her grandchildren from Center Township came to the 72nd annual festival at the Lefty Cepull Field in Aliquippa's Plan 12 section.

"My grandchildren are half Italian, and its time for them to learn," she said.

The festival named for a Frenchman who became the patron saint of Patrica, Italy, and the event offered everything Italian.

The food is Italian. The organizers are Italian. And even the Elvis-looking man who sat in a booth decked out in red, white and green, sang Italian songs.

Co-chairwoman Eileen Leasha said about 1,000 people visited the festival Friday night and didn't want to predict how many would show before Saturday was through."

By 7 p.m., however, cars lined Main Street and people began pouring into the festival's gate. They came from neighbooring communities to eat, watch the night's entertainment and eat some more.

After eating his meal, Nicholas Miller joined about 10 other children as The Bookworms read a children's story.

The Bookworms, two women dressed in thick green worm costumes, read a story about a little boy who makes a sandwich with creepy crawly critters he finds in the backyard.

The interactive storytelling show had a boy and girl from the audience make the sandwich as the story progressed. As the boy put felt ants, spiders, worms and slugs on the pretend sandwich, children looked up at their parents and made "icky" faces.

Donna Porto's 4-year-old son, Alexander, turned away when one of The Bookworms asked him to help her tell a story.

He was content to just listen with his 18-month-old brother, Christian.

"This is nice," Porto said of the storytellers and the way they included children in their performance.

"My kids weren't sure what to think about it," Porto added.

Nicholas Miller watched with wide eyes as the women told the bug story.

And his grandmother kept one eye on the crowd. Running into old friends is one of the main reasons she had attended the San Rocco festival for the past 50 years.

"(I come) to see people I haven't seen, even ones who are local and the ones from out of town," she said.

The festival continues this morning with the recienving of the San Rocco banner at 8, the San Rocco liturgy at 9:30 and the traditional procession, which begins at 11:15 at the corner of Polk and Division streets. The festival concludes at 10:30 p.m.

1997a Mari Ann Tolfa, right, crowns Emily Mattia Farmer as Little Miss San Rocco as Ian Mattia Farmer, left Little Mr. San Rocco, watches.


Monday, August 17, 1997

A tradition continues

Mike Testa, left, of Moon Township and Ben Fratangell of Aliquippa lead the group of statue carriers Sunday morning at the 72nd annual San Rocco Festa parade in Aliquippa. The group carries the statue of San Rocco in honor of their deceased relatives. 1997b






Friday, August 14, 1998

Everything Italian

In Aliquippa, the weekend belongs to San Rocco


Every year, men and women come back to Aliquippa for the San Rocco Festa.

"We've got people coming from Alaska, from California, from everywhere," event co-chairman James Faiella says. "Thousands of people show up."

The 73rd annual San Rocco Festa begins today and ends Sunday night. Activities take place at Lefty Cepull Field in Aliquippa's Plan 12 section. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m. each day.

The event is free and open to the public. Donations are accepted ; all money raised goes to area charities.

Highlights at San Rocco include everything Italian - from authentic music and dancing to fresh-baked chiambelli.

"That's the official food of San Rocco," laughs the 32-year-old Faiella, who grew up in West Aliquippa. "It's like a doughnut, but harder, and with a glaze."

The festival of San Rocco is celebrated Aug. 16 throughout the world. San Rocco was a French saint who went to Italy during the plagues of the 1300s, Faille says.

In Aliquippa, the festival includes a Mass at St. Titus Catholic Church on Franklin Avenue at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. At 11:15, a procession begins at the corner of Polk and Division streets.

"The procession is so beautiful," Faiella says. "It's just like the one in Italy; the men carry the statue of San Rocco."

That's the difference between San Rocco and the other summer shindigs, says Faiella.

"It is a religious festival," he says. "That's the main part of it. We don't want it to be just another carnival."

Still, there's plenty of fun to be had. Booths open at 6 p.m. each night. Italian goodies such as pasta, meatballs, lasagna and hot sausage will be sold, along with San Rocco memorabillia such as hats and T-Shirts.

Musical acts will perform. Mario Cafarelli plays his bigband sounds at 7 p.m. today. The San Rocco Festa Band, comprising about 50 musicians, old and young, will perform at 7:45 p.m. today and again at 9 p.m. SUnday.

Area favorite Casanova will perform its modern rhythm and blues and Top 40 at 10 p.m. today. Amici, a band that does modern Italian music, will play at 8:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday.

Faiella will perform traditional Italian music on the mandolin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

"It's a big tradition in my family," he says. "My grandfather and dad both played."

Pittsburgh's I'Campagnoli will take the stage at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The troupe consists of about a dozen costumed dancers who perform to traditional Italian music.

Other festival highlights include a Zambelli fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and a traditional Italian doll dance at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

You have to see the doll dance to believe it, Faiella says.

"It's a big mannequin that goes over a person. There's a male and female baby doll, and they have big sticks for arms, with fireworks attached. They light them and dance the tarantella."

A host of children's entertainers also will be onhand throuhtout the festival. Bob Mullins will do his magic and balloons act 7:30 tonight. Carla the Clown makes as appearance at 8 p.m. Saturday, and the Bookworms will read stories to the young ones at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Children can have fun in a bouncing room and play miniature golf.

The San Rocco Festa committee of 1926 comprised, from left: Front row, Cesare Spaziani, Vincenzo Colonna, Vittorino Salvati, Vincenzo Piroli, Leo Andreozzi, Christy Roma. Second row, Ettore Grossi, unknown, Luigi Bufalini, Ettore Salvatore, Achille Mansueti, Cesare Biancucci. Back row, Domenic Montini, Francesco Vallecorsa, Guiseppe Montini, Oreste Costanza and ROmulo Costanza.

If you're going

San Rocco Festa

  • When: 6 to 10 p.m. today to Sunday.
  • Where: Lefty Cepull Field, off Main Street, Aliquippa.
  • Admission: Free
  • Information: Call (724) 378-6646, or visit the Internet Web site at



Dance of the Tarantella


Big hairy tarantula took a bit out of her, a beutiful Italian woman. Poison coursed through her veins.

Her lover - a handsome Italian fellow - met the same fate.

The antidote? Dance.

Music started to play. It was the tarantella, an old Italian song.

It started slowly then picked up pace. The two rocked and spun to the music. Faster and faster they went.

When the tarantella, meaning "tarantula," reached a fever pitch, the poison spewed from their bodies. They were cured.

This is the story of baby doll dance, the traditional closer to the San Rocco Festa. In its 73rd year, the festa celebrates San Rocco, the patron saint of infectious diseases.

When the festa ends Sunday around 10:30 p.m., Arlene Sustak and Henry Buffalini Jr. will be under the massive dolls representing the aforementioned man and woman.

Fireworks will function as the poison.

Sustak - maiden name, Costanza - and Buffalini grew up in Aliquippa's Plan 11 neighborhood, where the festa began in 1925. Both were heavily involved with resurrecting the dying festa in the mid-80's.

The dance in particular and the festa in general, are glimmers of ethnic tradition in a time when the importance of cultural identity has eroded a bit.

"I love being Italian," the 47-year-old Sustak said, explaining her involvment. "I love all the things associated with being Italian, the food, the music, the dancing."

Sustak has danced the female doll since 1993. Buffalini has controlled the male doll since 1987, the year after his father, who had manipulated it for years, died.

"It almost reduced me to tears," Buffalini, a vigouous 62, said of following his father's footsteps. "When I got under that baby doll in '87, I was a little shaky and there was a bit of difficulty for me, but it had to be done."

"After a minute or so, though, I could have danced for the next year. Everyone was clapping and cheering and waiving Italian flags. It was a joy."

The baby doll dance has also long appealed to Sustak.

As a tiny girl, she recalls seeing the massive doll being assembled and costumed for the festa in a garage up on Plan 11.

"It was like watching King Kong come alive, it was so big," she said with a smile.

Years later, she is the doll she so admired.

"It's pretty heavy, but when I start dancing, it's like the weight lifts off of me. It becomes light," Sustak said. "I'm truly beaming under that doll. I'm sweating, but I'm beaming."

From Sam Sperduti, the first doll dance who did it for 64 years, to Henry Buffalini Sr. to his son and Sustak, the baby doll dance is a San Rocco tradition that made many feel that way: light, happy and proud to be Italian.



After 73 years, the band plays on


Ron Romeo raised his baton. The 50-or-so members of the San Rocco Festa band looked on attentively. The baton came down, and the band's sound swelled up.

Trumpets, oboes, clarinets, French horns, flutes and drums leapt to life, going through a verysion of "La Bella Roma."

It was Wednesday evening, and the band was preparing for this weekend's 73rd annual San Rocco Festa.

The band is directed by Romeo, who is band director in the New Brighton Area School District, and Jim Rizzo, band director in the Center Area School District.

Music has always been a part of the San Rocco Festa since its beginnine in 1925. The Musical and Political Italian Club band provided the tunes for the first 60-some years, but the MPI band dissolved.

Rizzo and Romeo came along a few years back to restore fine Italian music to the festival.

"Ron and I made the commottment to take over and make this a good performing band," Rizzo said.

Orazio Lesse, a trumpet player, was born the festival's inaugural year. At 4 1/2, he and his family came to the United States from their home between Rome and Naples in Italy.

The family settled in Aliquippa's Plan 11 neighborhood, a haven for newly arrived Italian immigrants.

By 13, he was a trumpet player, thanks to the Musical and Political Italian Club.

"They had a music school ther. If your parents were members, you got free lessons," he said. "When I first started, the trumpet was bigger than I was."

Since then, music and the San Rocco Festa have been important parts of the 73-year-old's life.

"Music is love for Italians," he said. "You got to have feeling to play this kind of music. I think Italians must have invented music; they play like no one else plays music."

"That's right, baby!" Rizzo interjected.

On the opposite side of the San Rocco Festa Band coin for Lecce is the likeness of Meaghan Overton. At 14, the clarinet player is one of the band's younger members.

She also doesn't have a drop of Italian blood in her, yet she plays and is welcome.

"It's been a really good experience for me, to play with people who have so much more experience than me," she said.

And even though she's not Italian, "they've all been really nice," Overton said.

For Lecce, it's much more than that.

"Being invited to play in this band means a lot to me," Lecce said. "This is my heritage."

Trumpeter Orazio Lecce practices with the San Rocco band for this weekend's festival.



Sunday, August 16, 1998
Festa brings Italy to Aliquippa


Immigrants created Aliquippa with their customs, traditions and beliefs.

In the case of those from Patrica, Italy, they brought San Rocco, the town's patron saint. They also brought the San Rocco Festa, a three- day festival paying homage to the Roman Catholicsaint believed to be a protector against the plague and all contagious diseases.

But San Rocco Festa is more that njust another summer festival.

"The people that are involved know it's a spiritual celebration," said Chrissy Persi, an Aliquippa native who now lives in Washington, PA.

The 23-year-old Persi faithfully returns to ALiquippa for the event she describes as a combination religious celebration, family reunion and opportunioty to enjoy good food and great music.

"I don't percieve it as just another carnival. It's San Rocco, " Persi said.

San Rocco is beer and sausage, traditional Italian music and a Sunday morning mass and procession through Aliquippa. San Rocco is a family affair, with people visiting, chatting, simply milling about and telling old stories.

Cassidy Rizzo, 3, of Hopewell Township dances with her mother, Kathy, at the San Rocco Festa.


Bob Rizzo of Hopewell Township remembers his Italian parents taking him to San Rocco as a child. Now, as a father, he brings his wife, Kathy, and 3-year-old daughter, Cassidy.

What keeps him coming back?

"The people ... the food .. just the San Rocco tradition." said Rizzo, watching his brightly dressed daughter dance to Frankie Capri's Italian tunes.

A Pittsburgh native, Capri has brought his unique show to San Rocco for five or six years. He's full-blooded Italian, and he sings traditional Italian music. But he performs in an Elvis costume, taking breaks to tell jokes or do magic.

"Let me tell yo usomething," Capri barks into the microphone, music still jangling in the background. "Italians were the first to have birth control. About 1,000 years ago. We called it garlic."

Ray John of Aliquippa stopped to watch Carpi's show for a time Saturday evening. John said Capri is a performer he enjoys watching, and San Rocco is an event he would hate to miss.

"I'm not Italian, but I love their traditions," John said.

"We got people here from all over, said Muffy DiMattia of Aliquippa.

DiMattia sees most of them, seeking donations at the festival entrance. The donations, she explained, go to loca lcharities like Give-A-Christmas, the McGuire Memorial Home and the Beaver County Women's Center.

That generosity is yet another reason San Rocco is more than just another festival, Persi said. People are friendly at San Rocco. They're open. They're religious.

For as long as Persi can remember, San Rocco has been as regular an occurance as Christmas - and nearly as important. And she vows it will never cease.

"It's tradition," Persi explained. "The love you feel when you're here - everyone's family, and everyone's Italian.

The San Rocco Festa will continue today with a Mass at St. Titus Catholic Church on Franklin Avenue at 9:30 a.m. A procession beginning at the corner of Polk and Division streets will follow at 11:15 a.m. The festival will conclude with one last night of festivities at Lefty Cepull Field on Main Street from 6 to 11 p.m.

Fred Perell, 76, of Aliquippa belts out a song at the festa Saturday night.





Friday, August 12, 1999

Italian festival gets 'the boot'


It's a wonderful weekend to be Italian.

Or to be related to someone who is Italian. Or to be friends with someone who is Italian. Or to be someone who likes to eat Italian food.

Truthfully, you dont even need to know a stromboli from a rigatoni to enjoy the 74th annual San Rocco Festa. Aliquippa's tradition-drenched salite to the country shaped like a boot.

"This brings everyone in our community together. It really does," festival spokesman Jim Faiella says.

The festival opens at 6 tonight at Lefty Cepull Field, off Main Street. People who park at the Foodland on Brodhead Road can take a free shuttle bus to the festival grounds.

Tonight's entertainment includes the big-band sounds of Mario Cafarelli, childrens magician Bob Mullins, rock band the Delaneys and the San Rocco Festa Band, featuring about 50 musicians who play old-fashioned, Italian music.

At 8:30 tonight and 7:15 p.m. Saturday, children can learn the tarantella, a fast, whirling southern Italian dance that traditionally closes the festival.

For a taste of Italy, festivalgoers can check out a mandolin player tonight and lace-making demonstrations tonight and Saturday. A hard working group of Italian-American ladies will demonstrate how to make chiambelli on Sunday. The chiambelli, a yummy mix between a bagel and a doughnut, will be sold throughout the event.

Food booths will keep busy all three days, selling lots of stuff to make people exclaim, "Now THAT"S Italian!" They can wash down their food with beer or soft drinks.

Kids can munch on cotton candy when not playing in the "bouncing room" or testing their skills at miniature golf.

As is festival tradition, Zmbelli Internationale fireworks will light up the sky Saturday night.

The weekend's most solemn tradition occurs Sunday morning when people gather for the San Rocco liturgy at St. Titus Catholic Church on Franklin Avenue, near downtown Aliquippa. After the Mass, festival leaders gather for a procession that begins at Polk and Division streets, in the city's Sheffield Terrace area. Residents line the sidewalks to watch men lug a statue of San Rocco through the city's streets.

Mike Testa, left, of Moon Township and Ben Fratangeli of Aliquippa led the statue procession in 1997.


Rocco was born in France about 1340 A.D A deeply religious man, he traveled to Italy a time when the nation was stricken with a rampant disease called the Pestilence. Rocco openly prayed for people stricken by the dreaded disease. Residents credited his prayers for curing many of them.

Some 6 1/2 centuries later, Rocco remains venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector against the palgue and all contagious diseases. As they've done since the 1400s, residents of Patrica, Italy honor Rocco with an annual festival around Aug. 16.

Many Patrica area residents immigrated to Aliquippa to work in the Jones & Laughlin Co. steel mill. "They brought their ways with them," Faiella says, explaining immigrants began the city's annual San Rocco festival in 1925.

A lot of people left Aliquippa when the region's steel industry collapsed in the early 1980's.

"But when San Rocco Festa comes along, it's almost like pilgrimage," Faiella says. "People you haven't seen for a long time come back for San Rocco."




Sunday, August 14, 1999

San Rocco festival attracts visitors
from across nation

Spokane, Wash., residents - from left, Jay Caferro, Greg Baldwin and Don Giese - attended the San Rocco Festa.

Jay Caferro, Greg Baldwin and Don Giese were so curious about Aliquippa's San Rocco celebration that they hopped a plane from their hometown of Spokane, Washington, to investigate.

They weren't disappointed.

It turns out that the Italian section of Spokeane, where Caferro's grandmother once lived, had a San Rocco celebration of its own in the 1920s and 1930s.

San Rocco was the patron saint of Patrica, Italy, and immigrants from the town settled in Spokane as well as ALiquippa. When they came to America, they brought their traditional celebration.

Caferro's relatives could have known some of Alliquippa's pioneers in the old country.

Caferro said the Spokane celebration died out long before he was born, but he always remembered his grandmother's stories.

Then a couple of years back, his older brother, Dennis, revived the celebration in his back yard.

"He died three years ago, the day before the San Rocco feast day," Caferro said. "That kind of got me worked up emptionally, and I started looking for more information about it."

Naturally, he turned to the internet where he found a web page for the Aliquippa celebration, which has run consecutively since 1925.

Baldwin and Giese, who were Dennis Caferro's best friends, didn''t want to miss out on the adventure, so the three of them booked a flight to Pittsburgh.

"This is a pilgrimage for Denny," Giese said.

During the day, the trio have been touring the region with visits to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the Pittsburgh Strip District and South Side.

"We have to go back and give a full report at our local watering hole. Jack and Dan's, "Baldwin said.

"It's a middle-class American Bar." That is, untill Baldwin shows up, quipped his pal Giese.

"Then it's low-class," Giese said.

Saturday night was their first visit to Aliquippa and they were given VIP treatment at the festival.

They said they're looking forward to attending the San Rocco liturgy Sunday morning at St. Titus Catholic Church and watching the traditional Doll Dance that concludes the festivities at 10:30 p.m.

The celebration is being held at Lefty Cepull Field on Main Street in the city's Plan 12 section and continues today at 6 p.m.




Monday, August 15, 1999

Procession highlights San Rocco Festival



Ann DiBenedetto waved and snapped pictures Sunday as a procession of San Rocco Fest celebrants made its way slowly - and we mean slowly - past her through Aliquippa's Sheffield Terrace.

Occasionally she would shout out. "Bella, bella! How you doing?" and someone would invariably get a big hug and a kiss.

She broke into a wide grin as one woman handed her a chiambella - an Italian pastry that closely resembles a pretzel.

The annual procession celebrating the Italian patron saint was in full swing, and DiBenedetto couldn't have been happier.

"This is all for the old country," DiBenedetto, of Aliquippa, said. "As the years go by, the meaning of this deepens. Even the little kids understand what San Rocco is about."

For the non-Italians among us, here's a quick rundown of the history of the celebration: Rocco was a Frenchman who went to plague-stricken Italy and cured many of the sick by making the sign of the cross on them.

When he became sick, he went into the woods to die, but a dog fed him and he survived. Imprisoned when he returned to France, he died in 1378 but became the patron saint of the Italian city of Patrica (which sounds like paprika with the proper accent.

So for 74 years, many Italians, along with many honorary Italian for the weekend, celebrate San Rocco with prayer, money, offerings, food and the renewal of family ties.

So a group of volunteers took turns hoisting a San Rocco statue onto their shoulders and carrying it. Many who carried the statue were decendants of others who carried the statue decades ago.

Stacy Sustar, 20, was the only woman to help carry the statue, saying that she did it for her grandfather, Tony Costanza, who can no longer participate because of health problems.

"It's such an honor to do this for him," Sustar said. "As long as I'm able to do it for him."

And that is what most of San Rocco is all about: family ties and traditions.

"Everyone who has grown up with this has ownership in this," said E. Robert Frioni, principal at Hopewell Senior High School.

Cathy Costanza Moorman, Sustar's aunt, said relatives traveled long distances to be at the festival.

"I think this is even bigger than Christmas," Moorman said.

The procession made its way through Aliquippa's Sheffield Terrace section then to Plan 12 and onto the Lefty Cepull Field along Main Street.

Many times the entire procession would come to a halt so that people could pin money to a San Rocco banner that led the way. Other times, the revelers stopped to down a shot of two of alcohol put out for them by spectators. Children danced around waving Italian flags while the adults hugged and laughed.

This was a party that no one was in a hurry to see end.

"Oh god, I've been a part of this all my," said Norma Colonna Thomas of Aliquippa. "As a kid, that was all we knew. We looked forward to this every August."

The festival was such a part of her family's life, she said she couldn't attend for a couple years after her father's death because she found the memories too upsetting.

Mary Salvati of Hopewell Township planned a big traditional Italian feast, including spagetti, for 35 people to cap off her enjoyment of watching the procession.

"This is out holiday," Salvati said.

The three-day festival ended Sunday night with traditional dancing at the Cepull field.

Eugene Friono of Aliquippa, front, and ROb Colonna of Hopewell Township, behind Frioni, help carry the San Rocco statue during a celbratory procession through Aliquippa Sunday.


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