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Volunteers Keep Festival Italiano Afloat

A downswing in volunteers and a rough economy won't sideline this summer's Festival Italiano. The 2010 Festival Italiano will light up Luciano Park from July 8 through July 11.

Roberta Troy, Festival Director, is the force behind keeping the festival alive. She and an aging group of volunteers she has been able to hold onto over the years, continue to make it one of Westport's favorite events. Troy noted with pride that Nick Saviano, 92, functions as the Web Coordinator for the festival's internet presence. However, as the volunteer ranks age, unfortunately, there haven't been new recruits joining the cause. “There is just no such word as volunteers' anymore,” Troy says. “I don't think the younger generation today really wants to.”

This year, Tim Romano kicks off the opening parade on Riverside Avenue as Grand Marshal.  Louis Santella and Johnny Maestro are the honorees. Santella  volunteered with the festival for many years and Maestro was a regular performer. Both died earlier this year. “We lost two really good men,” Troy says.

The town does not contribute financially to the festival, she points out. Its role is to provide the permit allowing the festival. Payment for public safety personnel, bands and other expenses is generated by the festival directly and through private sponsors. A $5 admission for those older than 12 offsets some costs. Sponsorships help, but like volunteers, Troy is seeing them start to dwindle.

Much of the money raised  by the Festival is used for charitable donations throughout Fairfield County and scholarships. Last year, the festival raised enough to give out twenty-two $1,000 scholarships and donated $10,000 to charity. Looking ahead to this summer, Festival Director Roberta Troy concludes, “The 2010 Festival Italiano No. 27 is in full force.” For information visit the Festival's website .

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