By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
It’s almost FESTIVAL time, folks, and this year the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival will celebrate its 38th anniversary. Members of the WVIHF Board of Directors have been working hard throughout the year – planning, sharing ideas, and holding fund-raisers – so that those who attend this annual Labor Day weekend event can enjoy an exciting Festival with something for all ages. It is no wonder Clarksburg’s WVIHF has been named one of the top 100 festivals in North America!
Whether your reason for attending the Festival is food … fellowship … the parade … or entertainment … you won’t be disappointed – and certainly not in the entertainment department!
On opening day of the Festival, you’ll want to find a spot early in the evening – particularlyif you are a fan of the Bee Gees. At 8 p.m. on Friday, September 2nd, “Stayin’ Alive”, known as the world’s #1 tribute to the Bee Gees,will be featured on the Main Stage performing many of those Bee Gees favorites – such as “Night Fever”, “Jive Talkin’”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “You Should Be Dancing”, and “Nights on Broadway”.
Whether they are performing with a six-piece band or with a 62-piece orchestra, Stayin’ Alive is a great show, incorporatingvideo clips, photos and dazzling imagery in their presentation. Tony Mattina, Todd Sharman, and Joseph Janissemimic the vocals of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb impeccably! It’s a performance you won’t want to miss. Be sure to wear your dancin’ shoes!
The headline entertainment on Saturday evening (Sept. 3rd), once again beginning at 8 p.m. on the Antero Main Stage, will be none other than the very talented music, television and motion picture star sure to be remembered by nearly everyone – Frankie Avalon!
From his formative years in Philadelphia, PA, Frankie wanted to be a musician. As a youngster, he played the trumpet, winning nearly every amateur talent contest he entered, and was later given lessons by a member of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. He made guest appearances as a trumpet player on The Perry Como and Jackie Gleeson television shows.
In the 1950’s Frankie evolved as a singer, leaving a trail of Gold Record Million-Seller singles and albums behind him. He amassed 30 motion picture credits during his career as well – many of them “beach party” films, but he also garneredsome dramatic roles. Although he loved making movies, it was live audiences that he says “fed his soul”. Avalon has played to sold out venues in nearly every major city in the U.S., and he is one of only two U.S. performers to have made an appearance at the International Festival of Stars in Romania since World War II. (The other performer was Louis Armstrong.)
Frankie Avalon was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and is still remembered as the idol of many teenage girls during the rock ‘n roll era.
He and his wife Kay live in California’s San Fernando Valley and are the parents of eight children; they are now enjoying the next generation of Avalons!
The Festival closes earlier on its final day, Sunday, September 4th; however, the entertainment continues. At 3:30 p.m., These Three Tenors will be featured. Michael Crouse, Thomas Stallone and RinaldoToglia will bring their dramatic vocals to the Antero Main Stage. They are known worldwide for their thrilling performances – whether it is an operatic presentation in a concert hall, Broadway music delivered at a private club or on a cruise ship … or perhaps a mixed program of popular classics to be enjoyed by everyone at a festival! This is another show that you won’t want to miss.
Bear in mind that all of this entertainment is FREE … thanks to the tremendous effort put forth by the WVIHF Board of Directors and their fund-raising tasks that have been supported throughout the year. In addition to many Italian-Americans coming together to celebrate their heritage, there will lots of dancin’ in the streets of Clarksburg on Labor Day weekend!
Want to gear up for the Festival early? If you are a pasta lover, you’ll want to head to the Jackson Square parking facility in Clarksburg next Saturday, August 27th, for the annual Pasta Cook-Off, a pre-festival event in its 28th year. Tasting begins at noon; bring your appetite and pick your favorite!
Check the Festival website at www.wvihf.com for the complete schedule of events.