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Festa Italiana returns for its 42nd season, hopes to help students thrive through annual fundraiser

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — This weekend you can indulge in homemade Italian cookies, sausage and the oh-so-famous sfingy donuts. If you're familiar with these delicious eats you might be familiar with Festa Italiana.

Families have made their way to the fields behind Boylan Catholic High School's football stadium for four decades to celebrate Italian culture in the 815.

Festa Italiana may be around for just one weekend but it takes a whole year to plan. The mission behind this staple event makes all the hard work worth it.

For board member Joy Parlapiano, tradition and family are the heart and soul of Festa Italiana. She is just one of hundreds of volunteers who sets up, tears down and serves at the festival.

"I remember coming here as a kid myself, my grandparents bringing me here," said Parlapiano. "It's like a reunion every year. I love that it's Italian culture."

For Boylan Catholic High School senior Luke Leombruni and his family, the festival is a chance to come together and celebrate their heritage while giving back.

"My dad sometimes played bocce ball, so I would watch him do that," said Leombruni. "I think they love to help out so they wanted to. They know a lot of people here because we are Italian."

Even if you don't have Italian in your blood, everyone is considered famiglia at Festa. The culture and entertainment are both part of why Festa is the longest running festival in Rockford but it's also because all financial contributions go straight to local schools.

"It's for scholarships for parochial schools to help children from K all the way through high school. We do it by an application process and we have raised over $800,000," said Parlapiano.

It's a cause Parlapiano hopes more people get to know because behind each bite of sfingi is a student getting a chance to thrive.

"The sfingys are always the best! Those are amazing," said Leombruni.

"I can't imagine not having Festa. I mean as long as I am still here; I'm still going to be a part of Festa and make sure it still goes," said Parlapiano.

Parlapiano hopes the next generation of volunteers will take what they have learned and keep the Italian tradition alive for the Rockford region.

The weekend long festival starts Friday night from 5-11 p.m. Gates open again on Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and for the last time on Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. For more information click here.

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Cassandra Bretl

Cassandra is the morning reporter for 13 News Today.
She joined the WREX team in July of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a major, minor and a certificate.
She is excited to bring her skills back to the 815 where she is originally from.
You can contact Cassandra at cbretl@wrex.com

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