WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – For the past 33 years, the Italian-American Festival has called downtown Warren home, but now there’s talk of moving it out of the city.
On Tuesday, over a dozen people rallied on Courthouse Square, hoping to stop the annual August event from moving to Niles.
“The Italian-American Festival and Courthouse Square go hand-in-hand,” said Tom Angelo, a friend of the festival’s founder, Lou Metter.
Metter started the four-day festival in 1985. It’s grown over the years but its core values — celebrating the Italian culture and the city — have stayed the same.
The festival has even become a reason why people who have left the area come back to visit.
“Families sometimes plan their vacations around it because it’s so important to them,” said Metter’s grandson, Corey Hovance. “Families come together here.”
If it’s up to them, downtown Warren is where the Italian-American Festival will stay.
“I will do anything that I can do to help make that happen,” said committee member Angelo Lucarelli.
The festival board is set to meet with the Cafaro Company on Thursday to talk about the possibility of moving the event to the Eastwood Mall complex.
“My objection to all of that is that what they’re going to present is a money option, I do believe. This festival is not about making money,” Lucarelli said.
“I think that it’s a wise thing to do. That doesn’t mean that it’s always the best thing to do,” Angelo said.
On the last night of the festival last year, several cars in the parking deck on Franklin Street were damaged. Residents and business owners say it’s a garage that has seen vandalism problems for years, especially during the Italian Fest, even though security cameras are all around the building.