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Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival Brings Ancient Rome Alive!

Looking for something to do this summer?  Well, this year Sorrento Cheese is taking us on a journey through the past in its Roman themed Italian Heritage Festival.  Running from Thursday July 16th through Sunday July 19th, the festival will be held on Hertel Avenue between Delaware and Colvin and will feature historical and fictional Italian characters, tributes, displays, and dancing.

“We love that the cultural aspects of the Festival grow every year,” said Jessica Ruth, spokesperson for Sorrento Cheese. “Sorrento Cheese is proud to be part of a tribute to Italy’s history and its strong ties with Western New York.”

The top attraction this year will be a working replica of Mount Vesuvius, created by Chicago artist Giovanni Bucci, which is 80 feet tall and 30 feet wide.  Just like the original, the model will erupt with smoke and sound every hour of the festival.  Last year’s big hit, Trevi Fountain, was also created by Bucci.

Anyone interested in viewing their Italian ancestry can head over to the Ilio DiPaolo  Heritage Tent which features computerized genealogy research.  The tent also features a screening of the documentary “La Terra Promessa,” which gives a more detailed history, including Italian immigration to Western New York.  Children can also make necklaces and other crafts for free when visiting the tent.

A raffle to win one of two lithographs from local watercolor artist, Dr. V. Roger Lalli is featured this year.  Dr. Lalli is well known for his “Buffalo My City” collection of local architectural landmarks.  Proceeds from the raffle will go to help victims of the April earthquake which affected Italy’s L’Aquila-Abruzzo Region, about 60-miles Northeast of Rome.

The Festival’s opening ceremonies are scheduled for Thursday at 5:30PM on the Main Stage.  Immediately following at 6:30PM, local celebrities
will take part in the Sorrento Cheese Celebrity Cheese Building for
Charity. Participants have only 60 seconds to build the highest
structure out of Sorrento string cheese. Area celebrities are playing
for their favorite charities, with prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250 going to first, second and third place.

On Friday, the festival will open early for Stone’s Buddies from 9AM-11AM.  Twenty to thirty children from Women & Children’s Hosptial will be allowed to enter the festival early to have a chance to enjoy the festival and rides without the worries of a huge crowd.

WKBW Channel 7 will be sponsoring the festival’s first ever “Dancing Under the Stars” on Saturday, July 18th from 4-6PM.  Like the popular television show, local celebrities and some of Buffalo’s favorite Italian sons will grace the dance floor, including Towawanda-native Boxer Baby Joe Mesi, former Mayor Anthony Masiello, and DiPaolo’s own Dennis DiPaolo.  Instructors from David DeMarie and Spezio’s Studios will also be there dancing to music from Kenny Thomasula.

For all of the people that like to sing in their showers and beyond, there is the Italian Idol contest!  “The Italian Idol contest has always been a Festival favorite,” said Carmen Palma, president of the Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival committee. “I’m thrilled that it keeps growing both in contestants and attendance each year.”  Contest finals will take place Sunday afternoon at 2PM.

A bilingual mass in Italian and English will be held on Sunday morning on the main stage at 9:30AM.  Also, a traditional procession will be held each day at 3:30, featuring the 100 year old St. Anthony statue.

Of course, the festival would not be complete without the food.  In addition to the variety of Italian cuisine, Sorrento Cheese set up a booth with free samples, coupons, recipes,  and a prize wheel.

All weekend long, the Sorrento Cheese La Cucina Italiana will hold cooking demonstrations with special appearances from Sorrento’s own Chef Marco Sciortino from Marco’s Italian Restaurant and some of Western New York’s most prominent chefs.

As you can see, there is a lot going on during the Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival!  Last year, the festival helped raise about $60,000 that directly sponsored community events throughout Buffalo as well as fund a number of college scholarships.  The festival attracts an estimated 500,000 visitors during its run, making it the second largest Italian festival in North America. 

The Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival takes place in Little Italy on Hertel Avenue from July 16th-19th.    It is open from 11AM-11PM, Thursday through Saturday, and from 9:30AM-11PM on Sunday.  For more information, visit their website.

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