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St. Joseph's Festival celebrates 80 years

  • TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO Mary Fulton, left, and Jackie Colancecco cook up some tasty wings at the St. Joseph's Festival in Summit Hill last year. Wings are just one of the many ethnic and American foods that will be available during the 80th annual St…
    TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO Mary Fulton, left, and Jackie Colancecco cook up some tasty wings at the St. Joseph's Festival in Summit Hill last year. Wings are just one of the many ethnic and American foods that will be available during the 80th annual St. Joseph's Festival July 18-20.
Published July 14. 2014 04:00PM

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Step right up.

It's time for the St. Joseph's Festival in Summit Hill.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the annual three-day event. The festival will be held July 18-20 on the grounds of the church on West Ludlow Street. Hours of operation are 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday and 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday, rain or shine.

In addition, the revived St. Gabriel procession, in which the people carry the statue of St. Gabriel through the streets of Summit Hill, will take place at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, followed by benediction before the opening of the festival. It will conclude with a fireworks display after 10 p.m. Sunday.

The parish has been sponsoring the block party for decades. Initially called the St. Gabe's Festival as a tribute to St. Gabriel, the event brings back to the Panther Valley hundreds of family members and friends for a weekend of reunions and reminiscing.

Festivalgoers can enjoy a plethora of homemade ethnic and American foods, including halupki, halushki, pierogies, soups, pizza, bleenies, turkey and beef barbecue, hamburgers, hot dogs, deep fried Oreos, waffles and ice cream, cakes, wings, a variety of hot sandwiches, and the always popular bloomin' onions.

Nightly entertainment will also be provided. On Friday, listen to the sounds of Folk 'n Coal Mine Music by Jay Smarr from 6:30 to 10 p.m., Party Dawgz will perform from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, and Asking Andy will be there from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

There will also be kiddie rides, a theme basket Chinese auction, plant sale and drawings. Browsing for the auction will be held until Sunday evening, and a kiddie ride special is scheduled for Friday night.

80 years of history

The annual festival originally became a reality after "a group of men had a dream."

According to the 50th anniversary festival booklet, in 1930, Mike Pezzent, Paul DiMattia, Joe Leonzi Sr. and Amilio Pantoni, as well as many others, decided to plan an event for the ages.

After years of preparation, the first St. Gabriel's Festival, organized by members of St. Gabriel's Club, was held on the grounds of St. Joseph's Church in 1934 as a way to honor St. Gabriel, the patron saint of the Italian people. The festival eventually grew from a small gathering into a full carnival with rides, food and other entertainment.

Over the years many new attractions were added, such as the Greasy Pole, caber throw, a fireworks display and the carrying of the statue of St. Gabriel through the streets of the town.

In 1948, the festival organization committee was formed in St. Joseph's Catholic Church to carry on the traditions of the annual celebration.

Today, the festival continues to flourish and is known throughout the Panther Valley and surrounding communities as the place to be in July.

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