, Muskogee, OK


May 15, 2014

McAlester’s Italian Festival has a full plate

McALESTER — This weekend’s Italian Festival in McAlester is expected to be much bigger than last year’s, judging by the number of vendors who have signed up to participate in the event.

“We’ve got close to 100 vendors, about double what we had last year,” said Bobby Lenardo, who is the co-chairman with Mary Ann Fields of this year’s festival.

The festival is set for Saturday and Sunday at the Southeast Expo Center and Pittsburg County Fairgrounds west of McAlester off U.S. 270.

A number of activities — food-related and otherwise — await those who attend, including Italian dinners at the main food tent, music, arts and crafts, and a number of food vendors.

“We’ll have a carnival, inflatables and pony rides,” Lenardo said. Helicopter rides are also returning this year, he said.

Even the weather is cooperating, based on the current forecast. With sunny and partly cloudy skies predicted for the weekend, this year’s festival should be cooler than last year’s, Lenardo noted.

The festival is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and continue through 9 p.m., beginning with the posting of colors by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the opening prayer and the crowning of this year’s Re and Regina on the festival’s main stage.

Lenardo said the main food tent will open at 11 a.m.

“We’ll have dinners with spaghetti and meatballs, sausage, Italian salad and garlic bread,” Lenardo said. Drinks are iced tea and water, he said.

Individual pizzas and sandwiches will also be available, said Lenardo.

Also planned for Saturday is a spaghetti-eating contest for ages 12 and younger.

All sorts of items will be available from the arts and crafts vendors.

“Cindy Basolo has done an outstanding job of getting new arts and crafts vendors to come,” Lenardo said, referring to the volunteer in charge of arts and crafts booths at this year’s Italian Festival.

Music is set to begin at 11 a.m. with Signs of Warning, described by Lenardo as a teen rock band. Santa Fe Line, a group that performs a variety of music and includes McAlester native Chuck Justice is set to perform from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., and Bad Leg Benny, a group that plays country music and southern rock, is set to perform from 4:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.

The Italian Festival is set to continue Sunday, opening at 11 a.m. and going through most of the afternoon, with the festival usually starting to wind down around 4 p.m.

The main food tent will be serving Italian food beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday and continuing until 4 p.m. or until the food is gone, said Lenardo.

James Beaty writes for the McAlester News-Capital.

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