Inaugural Italian Festival attracts 15,000

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Fifth and F streets were jam packed with spectators last Saturday as they enjoyed the sounds of Italian music and sampled different treats. That’s because Lincoln had an inaugural Italian Festival, and barbecue spaghetti and kettle corn could be smelled from blocks away. “It’s been lovely. I’ve had a very nice time with my grandson who’s visiting from Fairbanks, Alaska,” said John Bessant of Lincoln. Bessant liked the car show and seeing the various food stands. “I thought the barbecue spaghetti was very interesting,” Bessant said. “I’ve never seen that before.” The festival, organized by Friends of Lincoln Kids to raise money for the Lincoln Library’s “Mother Goose on the Loose” program, featured Italian food to Greek food. Friends of Lincoln Kids founder and president Jeff Greenberg chose to donate to “Mother Goose on the Loose” after seeing what the program offers preschoolers. He wanted to keep the program running through the city’s budget issues. “It was such a fantastic program, and when I found out about the budget constraints and they were going to cancel it, I said, ‘I’ll give you the money, there’s no question,’” Greenberg said. “You’ve got preschool children, and when you want to upgrade education, this is just a great program.” Vendors told Greenberg an estimated 15,000 visitors were at the event between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. “I thought it was fantastic, only because everybody I talked to or they had talked to said it was a great day,” Greenberg said. “The variety of food vendors was fantastic and I couldn’t have ordered a better day for the weather.” Vendors lined the downtown streets, selling merchandise including clothes, hats and jewelry, to cookies and mandarin-infused olive oils. “The food is good and the turnout has been exceptionally good,” Mayor Tom Cosgrove said. “It’s another new event downtown that gets people more acquainted with our community.” Constance Provenzano traveled from Carmel to sell her goods, which ranged from hats to cashmere scarves and wraps. The News Messenger talked to her Monday morning about the inaugural Italian Festival. “The crowd was pleasant and delightful. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of people,” Provenzano said. “The crowd was thinner than what was expected, and that was disappointing, because there was not a lot of support for raising money for the community.” Provenzano said she’d be back next year to support what she called a good cause. Others were amazed at the crow d numbers. “I’m shocked at all of the people! We got here early and the crowds were already here,” said Jan Bowling of Granite Bay. Her husband displayed a vehicle in the classic car show organized by Avant Garde Salon. “I like talking with all of the people.” Fieldhaven Feline Rescue volunteers had cats and kittens there. “We’re here to get exposure, to teach the public proper cat care and get the spay-and-neuter program out there to people,” said Johanna Meinking from Fieldhaven. Fieldhaven was not the only community organization out Saturday to garner support, since Friends of the Lincoln Library had a booth, and the Lincoln Area Archives Museum held a grand opening. When The News Messenger stopped by early in the day, the Archives’ volunteer Executive Director Shirley Russell said about 150 visitors had already stopped in to check out the museum. Visitors also enjoyed musical acts during the day, most of which who sang Italian classics. “I thought it was very good. I enjoyed it,” Dennis Dawson said of the day. “The food was good, the cars were good and the entertainment was good.” The car show was enjoyed by young and old, and cars featured included Corvettes and Camaros. “It’s cool. I like seeing all of the cars,” said Kaleigh Ray, 12, of Lincoln. “I just like seeing the old cars and the old styles.”