PITTSBURG, Kan. — "I’ll take two rigatoni specials," Karen Sandberg said as she stood at the Pallucca’s deli counter in Frontenac on Thursday.

"Two? Coming right up," Pallucca’s owner Ethan Edwards replied.

"We never miss rigatoni day," Sandberg said.

On Thursday, Oct. 1, members from all over the Frontenac community and beyond gathered at Pallucca’s to support the annual Festa Italiana — called Taste of Festa this year — and also to feast upon Pallucca’s famous rigatoni and sausage special.

The festival, which benefits the Frontenac Education Foundation to provide scholarships to local students, usually occurs on a Saturday in the fall. Normally it would feature games, food vendors, raffles, a silent auction and live music that most of the community would come out to enjoy, but this year things are a little different.

Back in July, as COVID-19 raged on, the Frontenac Education Foundation faced a choice: cancel the event outright or try to find a way to make it work. They chose the latter.

"I knew they would find a way to make it happen," Edwards said.

This year the event has largely been virtual, with the usual silent auction conducted via Facebook starting Monday, Sept. 28, and a 5k that also will be virtual on Saturday, Oct. 3. Despite the differences, local restaurants still found a way to be involved and all week have been offering different specials to support the cause.

"I graduated from Frontenac in 2008, so I received the scholarship," Edwards says. "I always like to try and give back to the cause since it is my hometown school."

While most are happy that the event could still happen, people are still disappointed about what’s missing.

"I’m definitely going to miss the social aspect," Edwards said. "You know gathering as a community and coming together for a good cause."

Still, most are just happy it’s even happening.

"It’s better than nothing," Sandberg said.

Though Festa may not be happening as normal for the Frontenac community, that didn’t stop people from standing in line to get a portion of the Pallucca special.

"I came from Texas for this," said Melissa Dell’Andonia, who grew up in Frontenac.

Even an old friend of Dickie Pallucca, one of the original owners, stopped by.

"We went to high school together," former District Judge Robert Serra said.

Serra and his wife now live in the Kansas City area, but they venture to Frontenac once a month so Serra can meet some of his veteran friends. They thought they’d stop today to support the cause.

"We want to support the community," Marla Serra said. "It’s a good cause."

Edwards expected that when all was said and done Pallucca’s would have sold over 300 specials for Festa.

"We already had around 150 that were pre-ordered," he said. "Rigatoni is our most popular lunch special so it’s not surprising."

The festival continues tomorrow, Oct. 2 at Pickled Pete’s and ends on Saturday, Oct. 3, with a virtual 5K and a special deal at the Frontenac Bakery. More details can be found on the Crawford County events website.