Annual Italian Festival celebrates 39 years



The Italian Fest reserved an area for Italian food vendors. Here, people were able to get a taste of pure and authentic Italian cooking.

Maddie Hiller, Staff Writer

From Sept. 6th through Sept. 9th, the annual Italian Festival once again took place at North Hempstead Beach Park, which is located between Port Washington and Roslyn.  Although this yearly event is held locally, those who attend come from nearby towns, including Manhasset, Great Neck, and many others on Long Island.  

Children and people of all ages look forward to this tradition, which is usually always scheduled for the week after Labor Day.

 “The Italian culture present at the Italian fest provides an inclusive atmosphere, allowing anyone from every background to experience new foods, dances, and more,” said sophomore Ava Weshler. 

The festival included rides like a ferris wheel, a pirate ship, and a gravity ride.  There was also an upside-down cage ride, a potato sack slide, bumper cars, and a merry-go-round.  For those who weren’t interested in rides, there was also live entertainment, a firework show, and countless vendors selling jewelry, crafts and gifts.  

Many also ate Italian ethnic foods in the festival, including pizza, pasta, meatballs, and steak sandwiches.  Moreover, popular Italian desserts were available, such as zeppoles, funnel cakes, fried Oreos and Italian pastries.  In addition, Italian coffee, espresso, cappuccino, wine, and beer could be purchased by the adults.  

This year was the festival’s 39th anniversary, making it the largest and oldest festival in Nassau County.  The Italian Fest is sponsored by The John Michael Marino Lodge, which is part of The Order Sons of Italy in America. 

“For about 40 years, the John Michael Marino Lodge Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America has been putting on this amazing Italian festival,” said Festival Chair Sandi Nunziata.  

The Order Sons of Italy in America was founded in 1905 by Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro in Little Italy in New York City for the purpose of supporting immigrants who came to the U.S. from Italy in the early 1900’s.  The Order’s main intention was to teach native Italians the English language and to assist with obtaining U.S. citizenship.  The Order eventually formed Lodges and established orphanages for parentless children and retirement homes for the elderly.  The Lodges also offered life insurance, funeral funds, credit unions and scholarship funds for those who desperately needed it.

James Marino, Stella Diranna, and their three children arrived in Port Washington in 1885, making them one of the first Italians to come to town.  They lived on Port Washington Boulevard and operated a sand and gravel mining company, a grocery store, and a boarding house.  On Nov. 22, 1925, the John Michael Marino Lodge received its charter with Dr. Eugene Calvelli, Sr. as its first Venerable.  The Lodge was named after James Marino’s son, Lieutenant John Michael Marino, who was the first Italian American from Port Washington to die in World War I.  

The Marino Lodge originally held meetings at the Bayview Avenue Synagogue, and the Italian community started celebrating the July 26 Feast of Sant’Anna, patron Saint Torella Di Lombardi, in the first decade of the 20th Century in what is now New Salem, Port Washington.  These events were the first on Long Island to offer Italian ethnic favorites, fireworks, music and dancing.  When the Great Depression began in the 1920’s, the festivities were put to a halt, but was resurrected in 1979.  Today, the John Michael Marino Lodge helps raise over $25,000 annually to support various community and state charities, including scholarships, medical research, cultural preservation and more.

Once again, this year’s Italian Festival saw many event-goers, and many of the Long Island residents who attended were able to experience the various rides and make new friends.

“The Italian Fest is a fun-filled event that most people look forward to throughout the whole year. It is a great back-to-school event that brings the whole community together. It even allows for people of other communities to join in and celebrate too,” said sophomore Ali Martinez.  

Many agree that the best part of the festival was appreciating the history of Italian heritage and knowing that the Order Sons of Italy, and more specifically, the John Michael Marino Lodge, continues to provide for the community.