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Butler Italian Festival features taste of Italy and more

Singer Cat Tedder performs at the Butler Italian Festival on Friday evening. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

Butler’s Main Street came alive with the smells of Italy on Friday night, as the sixth annual Butler Italian Festival came into town for a three-day stretch.

A whole section of Butler’s Main Street is closed for the weekend, as visitors flock to sample the sights, sounds and, especially, the tastes.

Most of those who were at the Italian Festival, from attendees to organizers to even the mayor of Butler, were in agreement on what it is that keeps people coming back year after year — the food.

“The food, the atmosphere, people being together. Love it,” said Dan Palermo, who also said he comes every year.

“I think it's a great idea. I'm glad they've done this the last five or six years,” said attendee Frank Koch. “It's drawing a crowd, and I think it's getting bigger each year. And the food is great.”

While there was more than enough Italian fare, attendees could also find tacos, nachos, shaved ice and other non-Italian delicacies, giving the festival the atmosphere of a county fair.

For the adults, there was a “Hop Lot” near the parking lot of the Springhill Suites on Jefferson Street, which served multiple flavors of draft beer along with Italian sausage.

Even before the festival officially opened at 5 p.m. on Friday, crowds flocked Main Street and jammed nearly every available parking space.

“I came in about 4:30. It's about 5:30 now, and parking’s already at a premium, and there's lots of people here,” said Butler mayor Bob Dandoy, who helped officially open the festival.

All three days will offer at least one musical act on the main stage, located near the People’s Gas building, 205 N. Main St. On Friday evening, the festival opened with teenage solo act Cat Tedder, performing a set of popular Italian-inspired standards, including Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.”

“I like the music right now. There's a young lady … singing up there and she's very good,” said attendee Ron Olsen. “And we have some big-name bands coming to town, too.”

Among those big-name bands are Billy Mancini and Dr Zoot, who will perform on Saturday, and Let’s Groove Tonight, an Earth, Wind, and Fire cover band, scheduled to play Sunday at 2 p.m.

While there was plenty for attendees to do Friday, more of the festival is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday at 5 p.m. brings the first responders’ meatball-eating contest, where firefighters and police officers compete to see which team could devour more meatballs in a given time. The winning department would receive a donation from the festival organizers.

“Since I'm the mayor, I'm in charge of the police department,” said Dandoy. “So I think they're gonna come through the winner.”

Sunday at noon brings the Star of Italy beauty pageant, which has been a staple of the Italian Festival since its inception.

“We like bringing this event to Butler. Butler does a good job coming out to support it,” said Rocco LaManna, one of the organizers of the festival. “We really like being here.”

A previous version misidentified Dan Palermo as “Joe“ Palermo.

Crowds walk down Main Street during the Butler Italian Festival on Friday. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
Crowds walk down Main Street during the Butler Italian Festival on Friday. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
Crowds walk down Main Street during the Butler Italian Festival on Friday. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
Crowds sit down to watch singer Cat Tedder perform Friday at the Butler Italian Festival. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
Singer Cat Tedder performs at the Butler Italian Festival on Friday evening. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
From left, Mary Chitwood, in suit, and Ev Searle promote Robin's Home in Butler at the Butler Italian Festival on Friday. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

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