Grapevine: A Little Trip Down Memory Lane; The WV Italian Heritage Festival at 40

By Connect Clarksburg Staff | August 29, 2018
This week I got started enjoying the WV Italian Heritage Festival for this year.

I attended the Pasta Cookoff on Saturday and the Pasta Luncheon and play at the Robinson Grand Theatre on Sunday. Both events were very enjoyable and well attended. I hope to rest on Monday and Tuesday before enjoying the events starting on Wednesday.
When I return home from attending these events, my mind starts going back to 1979 and all the things I remember about those early years of the Festival. I am going to reminisce a little. For some of you this will be a little memory fresher and for others this may be something you did not know.

Did you know:

That originally the name was Clarksburg Italian Heritage Festival but was changed by the Founders to make it a state festival.

That Bob Kavachevich was the first director in 1979 and the festival office was located in the Clarksburg Library.

Over the last 40 years the Festival's office was housed at Colonial Village, on Pike Street over the Manhattan Restaurant, in the AT&T office on Main Street, in the Goff Building, in the Schroath Building, on Second Street across from the Church, in the Larosa home in Glen Elk and now in its present location on Main Street in downtown Clarksburg. 

That one time during the early Festivals there was a greased pole erected that individuals climbed after paying a fee to get a $100 dollar bill that was on top of it. This is a popular sport in Italy at Festivals.

The first mass was held at the Immaculate Conception before moving to the outdoor mass held on the Festival's Main Stage.

That the first festival was held on the Court House Plaza without a stage.

That the first Regina Maria was chosen by judges in a pageant competition. The first Regina Maria was Mary Frances Beto-Smith and she was crowned by A. James Manchin who at the time was the WV Secretary of State.

That there was only one time when the Festival entertainment was moved in doors due to rain.

That the Festival was televised live on national television and Channel 5 station representatives were in New York to present television executives with a plaque from the Festival.

That a group of directors and the Regina Maria Connie Chico-Merandi visited Vice President Bush to present him an invitation to the Festival and gifts from the Board.

That one of the last times that Senator Byrd played his fiddle was on stage at the Festival.

This list could go on and on but maybe the above will refresh your memory or give you something to think about.
I hope you will enjoy the Festival and remember to thank the volunteers and board members for all their hard work. I especially want to thank the Queen's Committee for choosing my granddaughter, Miranda Lang ,to reign as the 40th Regina Maria. My cup runneth over with pride. You have certainly made me a happy woman....and proud grandmother.
Keep in touch and be safe. Until next week "Now You Have Heard It Through The Grapevine."

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