During Labor Day weekend in Scranton, everyone can be Italian.
La Festa Italiana kicks off its 43rd year Friday, Aug. 31, from 4 to 10 p.m. with additional hours Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square, Scranton. The free, family-friendly event is a tradition in Northeast Pennsylvania, with lots of people behind the scenes working toward a weekend of food and fun, said La Festa president Chris DiMattio.
“People come for the food, the entertainment, to meet (up) with friends and meet new ones,” he said. “It’s a great event for everyone to get together with friends and family downtown.”
Weekend Times put together a handy guide to the tastes, sights and sounds of La Festa Italiana. Mangia!
Food  
Come hungry. More than 80 vendors will offer a variety of dishes and desserts from Italy and beyond, ranging from pasta, pizza and cannoli to Polish sausage and Greek delicacies.
La Festa favorites such as UNICO National’s porketta sandwiches and Diana’s Pizza, which has catered to crowds since the festival’s first year, will be back along with local staples.
“Nearly all the vendors are family businesses, and just like in each region of Italy, everyone prides themselves on their own recipes. That’s the way it is at La Festa as well,” DiMattio said. “Everyone’s pizza is different, everyone’s cannoli is different, the sauces are different and unique. There’s really something for everyone.”
Farmer’s market
Fresh fruits and vegetables will be available from John’s Corn. Grown on a farm in Ransom Twp., peaches, tomatoes, Italian beans, prunes and other crops will be ripe for picking up.
Music
Music fans can catch performances from bands, dance groups and more across three stages around the square.
The year’s entertainment includes the return of festival favorite the Cameos. The eight-piece oldies/vocal harmony group will perform its renditions of hits from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Audiences also have the chance to see performances by Gene Dempsey Orchestra, Black Tie Stereo, Old Friends, Flaxy Morgan, Popstar Drive and more. Jim Cullen, Jim Waltich and Jack Bordo also will perform while strolling around the square.
Other entertainment
Aside from music, the Jersey Pizza Boys will display their skills spinning and tossing pizza dough. Brothers Michael and Nicholas Testa’s talents garnered them more than a combined 100 million views on YouTube and appearances on “Today,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Little Big Shots.”
“They’re quite the sensation on YouTube,” DiMattio said. “I haven’t seen them yet (live), but one of our volunteers saw them and said it was an incredible show.”
There also will be a cannoli-eating contest Monday at 3 p.m., and guests can play bocce with Danny Lovaglio. On Sunday night, a fireworks display will light up the sky at approximately 10 p.m.
For the family
La Festa, which does not allow alcohol, offers lots of family-friendly activities, too.
Kids can check out the bounce house and performances. Damien the Magician will perform Sunday and Monday at the Wayne Bank Stage on Adams Avenue at Spruce Street. Juggler Robert Smith will entertain on the square Saturday at the Fidelity Bank Stage and the picnic area on Linden Street, and Presto Pete and Incredulous Chris will perform kid-friendly magic on Linden Street on Saturday and Sunday.
Minicozzi Memorial 5K Run/
1-Mile Walk
On Saturday at 10 a.m., the annual James R. Minicozzi Memorial 5K Run/1-Mile Walk steps off. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. at North Washington Avenue and Linden Street. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of NEPA’s Christmas party and college scholarships. For more information or to sign up, visit lafestaitaliana.org or runsignup.com.
Mass
Continuing a tradition, Mass will be celebrated in Italian on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 10 a.m. It will take place at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 330 Wyoming Ave., since St. Peter’s Cathedral is undergoing construction.
More activities
Steamtown National Historic Site will hold its annual Railfest on Saturday and Sunday. Free trolley bus shuttles will run to Steamtown and from Wyoming Avenue and Linden Street during the park’s operating hours.
Street closures and parking
Five parking garages close to the festival will have a special weekend parking rate of $5 per day for La Festa patrons.
The festival will affect traffic surrounding Courthouse Square on Friday, Sunday and Monday. Staring Friday at 4 p.m., North Washington Avenue will close from Mulberry to Spruce streets, Spruce Street will close from Jefferson to North Washington avenues, and the 500 block of Linden Street will close. The 400 block of Linden Street will be open to allow people access to the parking garage and also be available as a space where people with disabilities can be dropped off. One lane of Adams Avenue will remain open to traffic.

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