The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival takes place each year on Labor Day weekend in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The festival was started in 1979 with each successive year, the little Festival has grown, and now is rated one of the "Top 100 Events in North America" including Canada and Mexico. Each year, this 3-day street festival brings over 100,000 visitors to Clarksburg.
The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival began in 1979 as a celebration of the rich tradition of the Italian-American heritage of a large percentage of the population in north-central West Virginia. In its first year the festival saw great success and over 80,000 visitors. That year the parade included baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio as marshal, who shared his car with then Governor Rockefeller and Senator Jennings Randolph. The main event of that first festival was a free Jerry Vale concert.
The festival takes place in downtown Clarksburg, each Labor Day weekend. The street blocks in which the festival take place are totally closed to traffic for the weekend. The atmosphere the festival creates is full of pageantry, entertainment, music, and of course a wide array of food and drink. From the opening ceremonies, when the royal court of Regina Maria (Regina meaning "Queen" and Maria the name of the first queen of Italy), is crowned, to its conclusion with the traditional festival ball the festival is filled with great events including the annual 5k run, WVIHF Golf Tournament, and the annual pasta cook-off.
Each year the Festival pays special tribute to outstanding Americans by making public awards and recognitions. Recipients of these awards have included the following individuals.
Outstanding West Virginia Italian-American Award 1980 Nicholas T. Camicia 1981 Dr. Jay Arena 1982 Leo Vecellio 1983 Capt. Tom Paul Scott, USN 1984 Dr. K. Alvin Merendino 1985 Robert DeProspero 1986 Lt. Gen. Leonard H. Perroots 1987 Michael C. Paterno 1988 Joseph Antonini 1989 Rear Admiral Thomas Lopez 1990 Larry Ciccarelli 1991 Brig. Gen. Tom Mancinelli 1992 Dr. Thomas Mazzocco 1993 Angelo S. Petitto 1994 Augustine A. Mazzei, Jr. 1995 Joseph L. Tropea 1996 Frank A. Oliverio 1997 Larry Argiro 1998 Joseph F. Fuscaldo 1999 Andrew J. Paterno 2000 Lucius Cavallero 2001 Victor Basile 2002 Father Hilarion Cann 2003 A. James Manchin 2004 Russell Bonasso & Samuel Bonasso 2005 Carmine J. Cann 2006 Joseph M. Minard 2007 Leonard J. "Joe" Trupo & Louis J. "Zeke" Trupo
Honorary Italian-American Award
1979 Senator Jennings Randolph, John D. Rockefeller, IV 1991 Thomas C. Burns 1980 James Compton 1981 Odus Kincaid 1982 Msgr. Benjamin Farrell 1983 Frank Maxwell 1984 Gov. John D. Rockefeller 1985 Gov. Arch A. Moore, Jr. 1986 US Senator Robert Byrd 1987 John Williams 1988 Jon A. McBride 1989 Gov. Gaston Caperton 1990 Msgr. John O"Reilly 1991 Thomas C. Burns 1992 Sam Huff 1993 Milan Puskar 1994 Judge Callie I. Tsapis 1995 Robert L. Reynolds 1996 Father Charles McCallister 1997 Governor Cecil H. Underwood 1998 Ed Pastilong 1999 Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt 2000 Leland Byrd 2001 Daniel McCarthy, Circuit Judge (Ret.) 2002 Governor Bob Wise 2003 I.L. "Ike" Morris 2004 Alan Mollohan 2005 Dr. Kelley Nelson 2006 James. C. Hunt 2007 Harry Green, Jr.