The annual La Festa Italiana kicks off today on Courthouse Square in Scranton. The annual festivals features live entertainment and numerous vendors offering Italian food.
Over the years, our weekly Time Warp column, has shared moments from La Festa’s history. Here are those stories –
Time Warp – La Festa Italiana says arrivederci to Columbus Day Weekend
(First published on August 30, 2017)
Columbus Day weekend, 1980:
Chilly weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the volunteers and visitors at La Festa Italiana in downtown Scranton. Organizers estimated that close to 60,000 people visited the festival over its three days. “This is the best year we’ve ever had,” festival chairman Matthew Garofalo said.
Guests walked around Lackawanna County Courthouse Square, sampling such favorites as minestrone, sausage and peppers, pizza and tripe while traditional Italian music played over loudspeakers. People also enjoyed espresso and Italian desserts from vendors.
Besides the food, people also came out for the music supplied by Gold Dust Band and Ferdie Bistocchi Orchestra. On Columbus Day, internationally known singer Alberto Rochi performed to a packed Courthouse Square. Rochi’s performance was the capstone to the festival.
This marked the last time the festival, which began in 1976, took place over Columbus Day weekend. In April 1981, event organizers decided to move it to Labor Day weekend and hoped the switch would help the festival grow as a cultural event.
Time Warp – ‘Godfather’ star delights La Festa crowd
(First published on August 29, 2018)
Oct. 10, 1977: On a cool Columbus Day night, thousands of people filled North Washington Avenue for a performance by singer Al Martino as part of the second La Festa Italiana.
Samuel Cali and the Rev. Anthony Marra, co-chairmen of the event, said Martino’s appearance at La Festa was thanks to Dr. Joseph Skettino.
In addition to Martino, La Festa performers included John DiAngelo and his Electric Vibes, Gordon Roberts’ Special Italian Program and the Catholic Choral Club.
A native of Philadelphia, Martino found fame as a singer following his win on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout show in 1952. According to a 1977 article from The Scranton Times, Martino’s hits included “Spanish Eyes” and “Mary in the Morning.” But his stardom was cemented in 1972 when he starred in “The Godfather” as singer and aspiring actor Johnny Fontane. He reprised the role in the third installment of the film series in 1990.
Martino performed many times over the years throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. In May 1967, he was the headliner for the Scranton Police Department annual benefit show at the Catholic Youth Center. In August 1978, he returned to perform at the final concert of the Northeast Philharmonic Summer Pops Festival. And in May 1985, Martino performed after the Race of the Saints in Jessup.
Martino died Oct. 13, 2009, at his home in Springfield, Pennsylvania. He was 82.
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast