Columbus Italian Festival

168 E. Lincoln Street
Columbus, OH 43215


History of Italian Festival

Probably, among the many initiatives of Fr. Casto Marrapese, the starting of an Italian Festival is the one that really helped St. John's and the Italian community.

Many will remember when the Catholic Bishops of the United States declared 1980 the year of the family. It was a way of sounding the alarm about the dangers threatening the unity and sanctity of the home. Concerned about his parishioners, Fr. Casto began to dream of an extraordinary event that would make the American/Italians proud of their heritage and at the same time be an incentive to remain faithful to their religious and moral values. Father discussed the project with a group of parishioners, and after having reviewed various possible events, an annual Italian Festival was the unanimous choice.

To express the purpose and goals of the festival, Father proposed as a theme..Faith - Family - Friends".  Later, in an article written for the parish bulletin, he explained why that motto. "The reason is simple: These three elements represent the basic characteristics of the Italian people and their culture.

The date of the first Italian festival was set for the weekend of September 20th and 21st 1980. The location chosen was the most central and accessible possible, the Lausche Building on the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

A chairperson and a committee was selected for each activity of the festival. To make sure that all functioned properly was the responsibility of the General Chairman, Mr. Frank Oliverio.

After months of intense preparation, the hopes were running very high but not as high as it turned out to be. Everyone including Fr. Casto felt that a crowd of four or five thousand people would be fantastic; well, over ten thousand people came, generating a clear profit for the church of $26,000.00. It must be said that such a crowd generated also a big traffic jam on 17th Avenue and even on I71. The following day, in Section B of the Columbus Dispatch, under the headline "Overflow Crowd Celebrated Italian Heritage", it was stated, "Columbus' first Italian Festival at the Lausche Building was such a success that it suffered from an unusual pain: too many people, causing the fire marshal's ordering the closing of the building a couple of times." To avoid the repetition of similar inconveniences, arrangements were made immediately to use the Multipurpose Building for the future festivals beginning with 1981.

A couple of weeks later, at the recognition party for the workers, Father told those present, "My heart is filled with great joy and gratitude to God for giving us the inspiration and the strength to do what we have done.

In 2001 the Columbus Italian Festival was moved to its current home on the grounds of St. John The Baptist Italian Catholic Church.  As one of Columbus' premier festivals it now annually attracts over 35,000 visitors.  Each year on Columbus Day weekend the Italian community comes together in a 3 day celebration with the finest in food, entertainment and Italian culture.  This year we proudly celebrate the 34th year of the Columbus Italian Festival.

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