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Farewell to the Festival

Dwindling financial and volunteer resources end nearly 30 years of Westport's Festival Italiano.

Although it isn’t a local event, I was deeply saddened to read in the newspaper this morning that the Festival Italiano, which had been an annual summer event in Westport for nearly 30 years, has come to an end. We Fairfield County Italians looked forward to the games, the music, and most of all….the food.

The first festival was held in 1983 to celebrate Italian heritage, while raising funds for local charities. According to festival Director Roberta Troy,  the funds raised have dwindled to the level where it was only enough to cover expenses.

According to the announcement posted on the festival website, “Volunteering is virtually non-existent and sponsorships are dwindling so more and more of the set up has to be contracted and paid for. No one from Westport Festival Italiano, Inc. receives any payments from the Festival, so there is no way we can cut back expenses without destroying the character of the Festival, and that we will not do.”

It’s sad to hear that the decline of voluntarism is a major contributor to the demise of traditional events like Festival Italiano. Unfortunately, it’s a growing trend. A recent fund raiser I was to attend was canceled due to decreasing attendance. Community groups are desperate for new volunteers, as their existing group is aging and moving on.

It may be too late for this year’s Festival Italiano, but we can still do something to help on a more local level. Help raise funds for the , volunteer at the , participate in Tidy Up Trumbull Day, get involved with your child’s school’s PTSA, just get involved.  Or else, the services and activities we enjoy will meet the same fate as Festival Italiano.

Mark E Smith April 08, 2011 at 05:23 PM
It is ashame for this festival. It is a trend that more people are NOT volunteering for social, civic or philathroic groups like generations have before. More people seem to want invest in their small universe of friends and family today instead of getting out into the community and broaden their contacts. Is this because of the Internet, HD-TV, thousands of TV channels or play-dates ??? I don't know, however I believe that the amount of social interaction of both children and adults has significantly declined in the past decade. I think that this will be a trend that will have more detriment to society then people will realize. I remember as a child my father being in the Moose Lodge on Long Island back in the Seventies and early Eighties and their where well over 2,000 members in this lodge. They had dances on the weekends that would have hundreds of people attending and BBQ with hundreds more. Now, they are lucky if they get twenty people to a monthly meeting and have cancelled many of the monthly dances and family events. Are we that focused on our own personal lives that we don't focus on our community unless it has something to do with our children's baseball, dance club or Play? The only time I see adults out raising money for charity is for their Children's class trip or athletic organization. When was the last time you volunteered to support a local charity or civic organization? Times have changes and so has our social interaction with our community.
Jose April 09, 2011 at 01:42 PM
I agree. However, our own town cancelled a long tradition with Trumbull Day last year and I don't hear anything about its return. While people are busy and connected (or disconnected) due to various contemporary lifestyle factors, attendance was only hampered by bad weather for two consecutive years. It could have been revitalized while maintaing its core purpose of uniting families and the community at the offical start of the summer school vacation. I also wonder why your advocacy for community involvement doesn't apply this year's school budget and a philosophy about supporting public education. Many advocates of public education have expressed their concerns that the 1st slectman's recommended education budget and teh BOF's stalemate, is going to affect our community. Further, many of the school facilities are open for public use. Consider high school athletics and musical theater productions, it is open to the community and many members of the community access it. So I am left with the impression that you talk about the benefits of investing in community, but then when it came to showing leadership on supporting the BOE's recommended increase, you failed to communicate investing in public education as an investment in community.
Tom Pieragostini April 09, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Trumbull officials did cancel "Trumbull Day", choosing instead to commemorate town namesake Jonathan Trumbull on his 300th birthday.
BamBam April 09, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Jose - fairs and festivals vs. school budget... apples and oranges. Two very different issues. Festival Italiano is gone, as are many other of CT's heritage festivals More will follow... is the Barnum Festival next? That would certainly be a shame. In many cases, the number older volunteers that are stepping aside after decades of dedication is simply not replaced by the few who step forward to keep these traditions going. And things like the services of volunteer electricians, volunteer police, donated tents, etc., whiche were donated in the past now have to be paid for, sometime at union rates. Times are tight, and business and corporate donations, grants, etc. are few and far between. So, more people like us have to be willing to step up and volunteer, donate, etc. or I'm afraid that Festival Italiano will be just one of many of our local traditions that will be fading into history.
Mark E Smith April 09, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Tom, I don't know if Trumbull Day was officially cancelled because there is still a Trumbull Day account with a good amount of money to support it. I think if their were an organized group that could find a suitable location, vendors and volunteers that it could be put on. I think the biggest issue is where? Mark
Tom Pieragostini April 09, 2011 at 02:59 PM
"Trumbull Day" was first organized as a one-time event to commemorate the towns 175th anniversary back in 1972 and just grew to huge proportions becoming the largest single-day event in Fairfield County. Perhaps this could be resurrected on a much smaller scale as "Trumbull Family Day Outing"; its original name and focus.
Jose April 09, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Thank you!

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