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Memories and Prayer Open Festival

Marge Santella and her boys, Mark and Louis, bowed their heads as priests offered prayers in song onstage at Friday night's opening of the 27th Annual Festival Italiano. It was a moment to remember, honor and mourn the passing of the man some called the "Mayor of Saugatuck," Lou Santella.

Lou died, Feb. 21, 2010, in his Florida home at the age of 77. He was a well-known barber, authority on Saugatuck and one of the founders of Festival Italiano. Festival Director Roberta Troy said he was her mentor and a source of inspiration.

This year's festival, which runs through the weekend in the Metro-North commuter lot in Saugatuck, is dedicated to the memory of Santella. "The festival was really a part of his heart and soul," said Marge, who was married to Lou for 55 years.

Master of Ceremonies John Hendrickson said people sometimes made the mistake of telling Santella it was a nice carnival. "He'd look at them and say, 'It's not a carnival! It's a Festival Italiano and it's the best festival in the state!,' " said Hendrickson.

After the memorial, the Staples Players took over the stage to perform selections from "Rent" and other musicals. The festival gates were open and admission for the first night was free. There will be a $5 entrance fee through the rest of the festival, though children under 12 get in for free. All proceeds from the gate fee will be given to local charities and scholarships. Friday gates open at 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday they will open at noon.

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