The aroma of fresh cannoli, the whistle and crack of fireworks, the bright colors of traditional Italian art and spinning amusement rides—all of these favorites and more will greet guests at this year’s Mercer County Italian American Festival at the Mercer County Park Festival Grounds.
The festival will be held Friday, Sept. 22 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23 from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 24 from 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
In its 18th year, the festival has been declared one of New Jersey’s Best Fall Festivals by CBS New York. This year’s lineup includes Stayin’ Alive, a Bee Gees tribute band from Canada performing at the festival for the first time. Attendees will also be happy to see returning favorites like Uncle Floyd Vivino, an Italian comedian who has hosted his own TV show. “He had the place packed and rolling last year, so he will be back on Saturday night,” says Barry Chiorello, head of sponsorship and marketing for the festival. Performances will either be held at Investors Bank Stage or Cabaret Stage.
In the Food Piazza, over 40 vendors will be offering traditional festival fare like hot dogs and funnel cake, as well as Italian specialties like ravioli and braciole, an Italian meat specialty that can be found at Mamma Rosa’s. North End Deli will also be back, selling its famous arancini (rice balls) that sold out last year.
And in case it rains, prospective attendees should not cry out “Mamma mia!” The festival is fully equipped for rain and includes four dining tents, a viewing tent for the audience watching the Investors Bank Stage, a spacious tent over the Italian Market and the Italian Heritage Pavilion held inside the park’s ice skating rink.
The fireworks display on Saturday night, set to start at 9:45 p.m., will be visible from anywhere on the festival grounds, but Chiorello suggests, “To get up close and personal, go towards the Cabaret Tent.”
The festival will also include wine and beer gardens, amusement rides, bocce lessons and tournaments, a play area for toddlers, a Cultural Theater with speakers and cooking demonstrations and a mass held on Sunday morning.
Admission is $5. Senior citizens 65 and older are $4 and children ages 12 and younger are free. There is also a $5 county parking fee. No pets are allowed except for service dogs.
More information is online at italianamericanfestival.com.