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The I Love Lucy Grape Stomp will return to the Italian Fest at St. George Church. This year’s event runs on Friday, Aug. 23 and Saturday, Aug. 24. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Food, music, and a weekend of games and fellowship are returning to Guilford this month, in the form of St. George’s Church annual Italian Festival.
Organized by the St. George’s Men’s Group, the event has grown over the past six years into a two-day extravaganza featuring live music, lawn games, cooking competitions, and of course, as much delicious home-made Italian food as you can eat.
“What we’re all about,” said Jim Mancini, the event chairperson and co-founder, “is raising money for charity, and having fun doing it.”
Over the course of a weekend, Friday, Aug. 23 and Saturday, Aug. 24, Mancini said the group will cook about 150 pounds of meat, including approximately 3,000 meatballs, with plans to serve close to 2,000 people.
“My meatball recipe,” said Mancini.
Other items on the menu include pizza, pasta fagioli, eggplant, steak and cheese, and lasagna, all made by St. George members and their families.
Although the food will certainly be a big draw for many, Mancini said games and competition feature prominently in the festival, with a more casual experience for those who enjoy playing cornhole or bocce, and a slightly more competitive option for people who want to test their cooking or eating skills.
This will be the second year, according to Mancini, featuring a meatball cook-off and a spaghetti-eating contest, both of which were a rousing success last year. Those events, along with an “I Love Lucy” look-alike contest, require pre-registration, and offer prizes for the winners.
But the big draw, and what the festival continues to be best known for, is its good food and atmosphere, Mancini said.
“It’s not just [people] from surrounding towns,” he said. “We get people from West Haven, people from East Haven, Hamden, North Haven. People will come out because they like good Italian food, and they want to listen to music, have a glass of wine, just relax.”
Singer Michael Nigretti, who Mancini said specializes in classic Italian songs, will return for the second year, playing both nights. Friday night will also feature the swing band Java Groove, while Saturday will see ensemble group The Cartells join Nigretti.
As far as dollars and cents, Mancini says the event has consistently raised between $17,000 and $22,000 for various local charities in years past. This year, proceeds will go to The Guilford Community Fund, which provides a centralized fundraising platform for local charities, according to its president, Shawn Kinnare.
“We just a group of all volunteers, and our purpose...is to just raise as much money as we can to give back to the agencies that support the community,” Kinnare said.
The fund has a list of about 20 charities, including Lifelinx, Meals on Wheels, SARAH Foundation, and the Clifford Beers Clinic. Svetlana Goletz, the fund’s vice president, said that 99 percent of all donations go directly to the charities, which is possible because the decentralized and volunteer nature of the group.
“We’re very happy that [St. Geroge’s] chose us this year,” Kinnare said.
Goletz also expressed gratitude, and hoped that the Italian Festival would help raise the profile of the fund among local residents. Though the fund operates several annual fundraisers of its own, Kinnare said local businesses and community organizations do a lot to ensure the fund is able to achieve its goals.
“For them to step in, and say we can be a recipient of their funds from the Italian Festival is huge for us,” he said.
For more information on the Italian Festival, visit www.stgeorgemensgroup.org.
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