There was no shortage of sausage, pasta, meatballs and Italian cookies at the Dulles State Office Building Friday night.
But if the Bravo Italiano Festival ever were to run out of food, this would have been the year.
At the 27th annual Italian-American festival, attendance Friday was roughly 4,000 people up from slightly fewer than 1,000 people on opening day last year although the event was pushed back a month and held at a different venue, co-chairman Frank Doldo said .
I think its the food. Everybody loves Italian food, said Katherine S. Benedetto, a founder of the festival and one of the 200 volunteers at this years event.
Her husband, Fred C., who had played a key role in making the event a success over the past 27 years, said he used to make 160 gallons of red sauce while the women prepared 5,000 cookies and the same number of meatballs for a single event.
Its always been very family-oriented. And thats what Italians are all about family, Mrs. Benedetto said. The whole purpose of this festival is to share our traditions and customs with the community. Everybodys Italian this weekend.
Traditionally held in September, the two-day festival attracts thousands of Italian-Americans in the tri-county area to Watertown, who join to celebrate their heritage and mingle with each other.
Mr. Doldo said festival organizers thought the first week of October would work better because Columbus Day weekend is traditionally when Italian-Americans celebrate their heritage and because they thought the event would be able to attract more people.
The festival had to be moved to the Dulles building this year because ice is installed at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds arena, its usual venue, about this time.
Another highlight of the evenings festivities was the Miss Italia pageant, which awards a $1,000 scholarship to the winner.
Crowned 2011 Miss Italia on Friday night was Chiara M. Alteri, 18, a future speech pathologist who studies liberal arts at Jefferson Community College.
Its kind of a dream come true, said Miss Alteri, Watertown, who was one of eight girls to compete for the crown this year.
Miss Alteri said she has attended the Bravo Italiano Festival every year since she was born and was motivated to compete after seeing a few of her cousins named Miss Italia in years past.
Following in the footsteps of her predecessors including last years winner, Amelia Renaud Miss Alteri will be the face of the Italian-American Civic Association for a year, participating in fundraisers, pageants, parades and other events.
The Bravo Italiano Festival continues today, with doors opening at 11 a.m. at the state building, 317 Washington St.
Live music and dance performances, childrens shows and a Mass in the auditorium at 5:30 p.m. with the Rev. Donald A. Robinson are among todays scheduled activities.
Admission is $4. The cost of a special dinner prepared by the clubs chef, Geoffrey M. Puccia, at 6:30 p.m. is $25.