Italian fest hits high gear today

WHEELING – Tom Triveri hopes some extra practice will boost his team’s chances in the bocce ball tournament during the 32nd-annual Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, which opened at Wheeling’s Waterfront at noon today.

“It’s a matter of both luck and skill,” Wheeling resident Triveri said of bocce. “It’s easy for beginners to catch on.”

As Triveri and fellow bocce enthusiasts prepared for competition, piles of pasta, pounds of pizza and mountains of meatballs await the thousands of hungry customers who will flood the downtown Wheeling streets over the weekend. One also will find items such as gyros, funnel cakes, chicken on a stick, fudge and root beer floats.

The free festival offers live music and entertainment throughout the weekend, with much of this activity taking place at the Heritage Port Stage.

In addition to the traditional festival activities, there will be several new vendors on hand. There also will be games, as well as both mechanical and inflatable rides.

The 2014 Italian-American of the Year is former festival chairman, Robert Gaudio. He lives near Wheeling with his wife, Clare, and their 14-year-old son, David. He also has two grown children, Nathan and Elizabeth.

In addition to the opening ceremonies, events set for today include musical performances by Ronnie Fiorentino, 40 Plus, Two Bridges, the Joseph Sisters, Bo Wagner’s Rat Pack with the Jeremy Olsen Orchestra and Tony Janflone Jr.

Saturday highlights include a military veterans’ appreciation ceremony, a guitar competition, the scholarship awards and the fireworks display. Musical performers scheduled to play Saturday include Bone Daddy, Hoard and Jones, Elio Scaccio and the M-80s.

Sunday will feature the traditional outdoor Roman Catholic Mass, as well as a performance from by the OVAC All-Star Marching Band. Musical shows Sunday include the Skip Peck Band, the Joe Negri Quartet and Hit Play.