Community comes out for Italian-American Festival

Photo by Shanee Frazier Eweka
Longtime vendor John Chiavola, of Johnny Zeppoli, stands with event organizer Lucy Diura at the Italian-American Festival.

ORANGE, NJ — The Orange Italian American Organization, city of Orange and Mayor Dwayne Warren came together to celebrate community and culture at the 19th annual Italian-American Festival on Lincoln Avenue and Mechanic Street on Saturday, Sept. 7, and Sunday, Sept. 8.

Attendees were out in full force to enjoy the beautiful weather and the variety of wares being sold, including everything from deep-fried Oreos to homemade treats from local favorite Just Like Nonna’s.

Entertainment included Biago and Jersey Sounds, as well as an awards ceremony honoring longtime resident Donato Marucci and “Business Owners of the Year” owners Gianni and Maria Siniscalchi, of Gianni Hair and Skin Salon in West Caldwell, who are former Orange residents.

“This year was an excellent turnout, which I’m happy about because it was rained out last year,” Councilwoman Tency Eason told the Record-Transcript. “I love to see all of the people that come back home to Orange every year for this event.

“This area has always been known as Little Italy, and though the neighborhood has changed over the years, the business owners and residents still hold on to their Italian culture and heritage and it’s beautiful to see.”

Eason, who has been in office for 18 years, said she has attended the event for all those years, and her favorite part about coming, besides seeing old friends and neighbors, is all the delicious food available.

John Chiavola, of Johnny Zeppoli, has been a vendor at the event for the past 16 years and he credits his continued involvement to organizer Lucy Diura and others who run the event.

“Each year, they try harder to make the event bigger and better, and they are very persistent in asking businesses to participate in it,” he said.

For Chrismene Louis and Gardy Cadet, owners of Doctor Flan, the festival was an opportunity to bring their business into their hometown.

“We have been in business for nine months and we have always sold in New York City,” Cadet said in an interview with the Record-Transcript. “However, we live in Orange and we saw this as a wonderful chance to both expand our business and sell our product right at home in New Jersey where it is made. This is our first year being vendors at the festival and our favorite part so far has been seeing our neighbors enjoying the flan.”

In addition to celebrating their culture with the festival, local Italian-Americans have the opportunity to share their heritage with community members from other backgrounds.

“The Italian-American Festival is a celebration of the diverse, inclusive communities that call Orange home, focusing on our Italian traditions and neighborhoods in our city,” said Mayor Dwayne Warren in a recent email to the Record-Transcript. “As supporters of the festival, we would welcome any ideas or suggestions from the organizers on how to make the festival even bigger. I would like to see the city build on all the big events we already have on our calendar like our Caribbean Festival, the ‘Taste of Orange’ events, our Farmers Market and the Orange Homecoming Parade.”