YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Lent begins next Wednesday but the Italian community of Youngstown celebrated their own Mardi Gras Friday night called Carnivale.

At the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel social hall Friday night, guests indulged in traditional Italian dishes and drinks. Their goal was to try to persuade Youngstown State University to change its decision to end its Italian Studies program.

Mardi Gras is known as a time of indulgence right before Lent.

“Since Lent season is a time of fast, especially Fridays — no meat at all,” said Monsignor Michael Cariglio, pastor at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Basilica. “In Italian, it’s called Carnivale. Goodbye to meat.”

Carnivale originated in Venice in 1162 and became more extravagant as time progressed.

“Enjoy the night without anyone knowing their status,” Cariglio said.

This celebration embodies that feeling of indulgence, but has another mission.

“There is the issue of Youngstown University deciding to sunset the Italian degree and we are very much hoping they will go back on their decision,” said Allegra Baistrocchi, Consul of Italy, Detroit.

Baistrocchi works for the Italian government in a role that is similar to an ambassador.

“You have an ambassador in a capital city,” Baistrocchi said. “For other cities that are deemed important because of Italian population or business interest, we have a consulate.”

She came from Detroit to Youngstown to try to convince YSU to bring back the Italian Studies program and says she even knows how to fund it.

“How do we make it work? We have the endowment and a fundraiser. Have one of the very notable Italian families that has already said to me confidentially that they will make another endowment only for Italian language if Youngstown decides to keep it,” Baistrocchi said.

One YSU grad who plans to work primarily in international business in Italy says he hates to see the program go.

“I think that the Italian-American people of the Mahoning Valley don’t deserve that. You’ve got to preserve that culture. It’s the biggest culture here,” said Sam Madden, an Italian Studies minor graduate.