10th Festival Italia runs from 2-8 p.m. tomorrow

Published August 23, 2019

WAKEFIELD — Great weather is expected tomorrow for the town’s annual block party known as Festival Italia.

Street vendors, meatball and limoncello contests, rides for kids, music and dance are just some of the attractions when the 10th festival opens at 2 p.m.

The event is billed as “a celebration of Wakefield’s Italian culture and tradition.” Main and Albion Streets in the downtown will be transformed into a street festival offering a wide range of activities for locals and visitors. A number of booths will be dedicated to great festival foods, many sponsored by local restaurants.

John Ross, vice president of the organizing Wakefield Community Partnership (WCP), said that because of this special anniversary year, “Our goal is to make it bigger and better than ever.

“Whether you’re looking for delicious food, entertainment, children’s events, watching students from local dance studios, meeting friends and family at La Piazza’s beer and wine tent, or patronizing local businesses, we’ll have it covered. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Stoneham & Wakefield will be coming back with the very popular ‘Kids Zone’ featuring arts and crafts, games, and more.

In this 2017 photo, people cram Main Street during Festival Italia.

There will be a meatball contest this year, with judging happening around 3:30 at the corner of Main and Albion streets, near the Wheel of Chance.

“Can your meatballs compare with Nonna’s?” Ross asked. This year’s Festival Italia has been looking for some brave chefs to put their recipes and pride on the line for the annual contest to find “Wakefield’s Best Meatball.”

The WCP invited residents to show off their authentic Italian meatballs (without sauce, please). You don’t have to be Italian to enter. Where you learned to make meatballs is your secret, we won’t tell…

“We’d like people to get actively involved with the Festival Italia and the meatball contest is a great way to bring some friendly competition,” said Ross. “Meatballs are one of those foods that people feel really strongly about. They compare meatballs all the time so we want to give people the chance to get some public pride from the food they love.”

The WCP was successful earlier this year getting the Town Council’s approval for a 10-day liquor license for the event that would allow time to purchase alcohol for the La Piazza beer and wine garden, store it until the event and then return any leftovers after the event.

The Town Council voted to approve the 10-day liquor license.

In addition to the meatball contest, limoncello makers from around town will be pitting their concoction agains others in another judged affair, this one taking place at 4:30, also at the corner of Main and Albion streets.

The board had also approved WCP’s requested downtown street closures for the downtown event. Those streets will be closed to vehicular traffic from 12 noon to 8 p.m.

Main Street will be closed from Yale Avenue south to Richardson Avenue, The northbound side of Main Street will be closed to vehicular traffic from Water Street to Yale Avenue. Portions of Centre and Princess streets will also be closed to vehicles.

Albion Street will be closed from Main Street to North Avenue and Avon and Chestnut Streets will have limited access from Main Street.

The Town Council also approved the WCP’s request to use the Lincoln Street parking lot as a staging area before the event, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Temporary “No Parking” signs were put up yesterday to alert the public of the parking restrictions on Saturday.

Participating restaurants will also be allowed to extend their businesses into the event area.

Ross explained that the event will be largely the same as in the previous nine, with a few minor changes. The fenced-in La Piazza beer and wine garden will be in front of the library this year. Ross said that idea was to attract more activity to that end of Main Street. He said that the La Piazza raises a lot of the money that makes WCP’s event possible.

There will be dance competitions toward the Farmland end of Main Street, Ross said. The Boys & Girls Club will once again offer children’s activities on an area of Albion Street.

The Wakefield Community Partnership (WCP) was created to continue, develop, and implement activities and events that promote and encourage renewed community spirit.  It is comprised of a group of volunteers who seek to continue building a bridge between the residents and their community through collaborative efforts and enhancing community engagement.  The Partnership fosters activities that celebrate the vibrancy and diversity that exists in Wakefield.

And our Festival Italia certainly does that!