Vendors find alternate ways to celebrate La Festa Italiana amid coronavirus

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Friday would have kicked off the annual La Festa Italiana in Scranton, one of northeastern Pennsylvania’s most cherished traditions. The event was canceled due to COVID-19.

Normally Courthouse Square would be bustling with vendors setting up their tents, but Thursday night the square was quiet. With La Festa cancelled this year, some vendors are finding alternative ways to celebrate

Every Thursday before Labor Day weekend for the past 30 years, Chris Dimattio was busy setting up for one of NEPA’s biggest parties.

“We’d be setting up tents, we’d be helping the IBW electrical union workers illuminate all the tents. We’d be helping all the vendors set up,” Dimattio said.

La Festa Italiana usually welcomes around 100,000 people from all over to celebrate Italian culture, cuisine and music. But COVID-19 canceled the fun and now Dimattio now stands in an empty square.

“I feel bad for the charities that we support because we’re a non-profit organization. But more importantly, there’s vendors that – this is their income. They rely on this income,” Dimattio said.

Co-owner of Villa Maria in Scranton, Lori Macciocco, says it was always a huge weekend for business. They’ve had a tent at La Festa for 20 years. But they found a way to keep the tradition alive by setting up a mini festival in their parking lot.

“We also have some music. All day Saturday and all day Sunday they can join us on Lola’s Cabana, they can go inside and eat, they could sit outside, or they could just drive up and take it home,” Macciocco said.

Another popular vendor, Jason Sabatelle, is keeping the tradition alive with his own drive through La Festa in Pittston.

“People can just pull up and get our sandwiches that we serve at the tomato festival and La Festa. It ended up working out to be great we’re thrilled with the response,” Sabatelle said.

While it’s not the same, it’s still a way for these vendors to celebrate their heritage and boost morale.

“It really makes us feel good that we can make people happy,” Sabatelle said.

“Everybody needs a little build up since March, everybody. So if this helps, they say food is therapy, and Italian food surely is,” Macciocco said.

Dimattio says they’re already planning for next year’s La Festa. He says they will come back bigger and better than ever. The drive-thru La Festa at Sabatelle’s Market is open Thursday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. And the mini La Festa at Villa Maria is all day Saturday and Sunday.

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