Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NIAGARA FALLS — Carmine Bianco is determined to revive the city’s flagging Italian Festival, even if he has to do it single-handedly. And that may actually be how it plays out.
The Niagara Falls High School gym teacher, who put on a mini-festival last year that revived the 35-year tradition of a festival in the city’s Italian district, is returning this year with the intent to make the festival bigger and better than ever.
One small problem, he said, is that the city of Buffalo moved the date of their Italian festival to the exact same weekend. “It’s been a struggle getting vendors but we still have about 21,” he said.
The event is officially sponsored by Pax Romana, a new men’s bocci ball club headed by Bianco. One of the main events, along with grape stomping and a sauce contest, is a bocci tourament at the bocci courts at 15th Street and Pine Avenue.
“Our sole purpose is to take back and revitalize Pine Avenue to what it was in years past and keep our Italian traditions alive for the next generations,” said Bianco.
He’s getting some help from a handful of sponsors, but is doing all the heavy lifting for the event. When he needs help, Ernie Lucantonio, executive director of the Pine Ave. Business Association, steps in to lend a hand. The association typically has held the event but Lucantonio says Bianco’s doggedness is getting a lot done.
Lucantonio said the festival is held solely on donations and the business association, which canceled the event last year, simply could not find enough financial support. Bianco ended up holding a last minute “mini-fest” centered around The Markethouse Restaurant, and despite the hot temperatures on one day and the rain on another, more than 2,000 attended that event, Bianco said.