This year’s Italian Festival will honor Lou Santella.
The founding member, longtime director and unofficial “Mayor of Saugatuck,” who died earlier this year, will be remembered at the annual event, set for July 8-11.
Tim Romano is grand marshal for the Thursday evening parade.
The Italian Festival tradition — rides, food, music from the like of the Duprees and Emil Stucchio — will continue, though for the 1st time since its founding 27 years ago Lou Santella’s warm, welcoming spirit will be only a memory.
The Italian Fest is an integral part of Westport life. It took a lot of hard work by Lou, and others, to resurrect what long ago was known as the Feast of St. Anthony.
Today, it may be harder than ever to keep the Festival going.
Director Roberta DellaDonna Troy — who succeeded, and was mentored well by, Lou Santella — starts planning in early October. She arranges for permits, tents, music and much more.
When set-up begins in early July, there are still only a handful of volunteers.
Many Westporters think the Italian Festival is a town-sponsored event. It’s not.
Festival Italiano Inc. is a 501(c)3 operation. It relies on the generosity of sponsors and volunteers. Both are desperately needed.
Expenses are high. Last year, the Italian Festival spent $31,800 for police, $28,000 for electrical services, and $6,000 for the Fire Department.
Besides providing 4 days of old-fashioned fun and entertainment, the Festival gives back plenty. All money raised goes to charities ($10,000 in 2009) and scholarships (22 last year, each for $1,000).
Most Westporters don’t know that. They enjoy fried dough, Whack-a-Mole and doo-wop groups, without even thinking of the enormous amount of work that goes into each summer’s Italian Festival.
For 27 years — through heat waves, thunderstorms, and rumors of its own demise — Festival Italiano has been a boon to Westport.
Lou Santella’s legacy lives on.
(For more information — including volunteer operations — email firstname.lastname@example.org)