The 13th annual Festa Italiana at the Frontenac Sports Complex was a success, organizers and participants said Saturday.
The event was paired with Homecoming for the second year in a row, which brought thousands of guests to the event. The food is donated by local cooks and vendors such as Frontenac’s own Pallucca’s, and the money is used to pay for student scholarships, character education and teacher classroom grants.
“Last year we cleared $38,000,” Superintendent Dale Slagle said.
The event started in 1999 as “Festa Italiana: A Taste of Nations,” and has grown into a widely attended event complete withbounce houses, Mario’s Market, a live auction and live entertainment.
“We get major vendors and individual community members,” said co-chair Karen Osborn. “There are teachers and student groups who cook, too. There’s a wide variety.”
There appeared to be several thousand people in attendance, though it was difficult to determine because no official tally has ever been kept.
“We just haven’t ever taken count,” Osborn said.
Regardless of attendance numbers, the cooks and guests equally agree that Festa Italiana is a fun and worthwhile event.
Before the gates opened, Frontenac Rotary member Gary Miller grilled Polish sausages to serve with sauerkraut. He said he has children who attended Frontenac schools who have benefited from the scholarships, and children who will. It’s the least he can do, he said, to participate.
“It’s fun, you get to see people, you get to cook and it’s all for a good cause,” Miller said. “And it’s good for the club to give back.”
Frontenac resident Lisa Bonner came with her extended family. She moved to Frontenac three years ago and is getting to know the community and its events.
“We came for the good food, and the money goes to a good cause,” said Bonner, who has three children in the district. “It’s totally worth it for the scholarship programs.”
Bonner said she couldn’t pinpoint a favorite dish.
“There are way too many good things to pick from,” she said.
The cooks typically each prepare enough food for 125 servings. What about the folks who arrive late?
“That’s why we got here early,” Bonner said — they arrived around 4 p.m. and were some of the first people in line. “There are slimmer pickings if you get here late.”
The Festa Italiana spirit even affects people who grew up with no connection to Frontenac. Kansas City native Stacy Merando married her husband, David Merando, who graduated from Frontenac in 1989. They come back every year to participate. This year, she and Frontenac graduate Amy Pentola made Polpetta, essentially a meatball slider made with bread from Frontenac Bakery and topped with mozzarella cheese and sweet pickled peppers.
Page 2 of 2 - “We’ve come back the last six years,” Stacy said — her, sister-in-law, Mandy Merando, was next to her serving meatballs, and her husband and brother-in-law were further down serving homemade Italian sausage. “Last year we served Italian cream cakes. We wanted to do something a little different this year.”
Merando said she’s embraced the Frontenac community.
“There are a lot of us who come back to support this,” she said.