Ohio Valley Italian festival kicks off in Wheeling

WHEELING – The 32nd-annual Upper Ohio Valley Italian Festival officially kicked off Wednesday night with a dinner and celebration of the Italian of the Year.

With the theme “Italian Elegance,” guests honored Italian Festival Chairman Robert Gaudio as Italian of the Year for his contributions to the festival and the Ohio Valley. Gaudio has served as chairman of the festival for 12 years.

The festival opens to the public Friday and will continue its wristband program in conjunction with the Wheeling Police Department’s ongoing efforts to curb underage drinking.

As in years past, any person purchasing or drinking beer or wine at the festival will be required to wear a special wristband.

Sensitive to difficulties the police can encounter when enforcing underage drinking laws while patrolling large crowds, festival officials will offer the special wristbands at locations near beer and wine booths. In addition, a weekend wristband may be purchased. Wristbands will be available for sale throughout the weekend should a patron remove or misplace one. Proceeds from the wristband sales are used to defray the cost of security at the event.

“The Italian festival employs the Wheeling police officers during the weekend to ensure a safe, fun and secure environment for our patrons and their families” said festival coordinator Kim Smith. “In recent years, despite a record number of festival visitors, very few arrests have been necessary.”

The Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival will be held at Wheeling’s Heritage Port Friday through Sunday. Information can be found at italyfest.com or by calling the Italian Festival office at (304) 233-1090.