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Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival is a go for 2021

WHEELING — Board members for the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival officially declared Thursday night that this year’s event will proceed at Heritage Port in Wheeling.

Members of the event’s board of directors met at what was described as a “lively” meeting Thursday evening, discussing options and eventually electing to move forward with the wildly popular annual event July 23-25 at Heritage Port.

Michele Fabbro, president of the board, said that although planning for such a big event is a year-round effort, the board had not yet made an official decision whether or not to move forward with the festival in light of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hadn’t made the decision,” Fabbro said Thursday night. “We had to sit down and go over everything. But we feel confident that all festivals in the state will be allowed to go on, and we will operate according to whatever regulations and guidelines are in place at that time.”

Fabbro said the board of the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival takes the health and safety of its visitors and vendors very seriously. In fact, the Italian Festival was one of the first major events in the area to cancel last year because of the pandemic.

It was the first time in the event’s 38-year history that a cancellation had to take place. The board announced last April that the 2020 event had to press pause in light of the pandemic, and all other area events subsequently followed suit.

With vaccinations rolling out in full force now and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice expressing confidence that fairs and festivals will be able to take place, the board of directors are cautiously optimistic and excited to be bringing the familiar sounds and unmistakable aromas to downtown Wheeling in July.

“You can’t imagine how excited we are,” Fabbro said. “We’re really looking forward to coming back.”

Undo’s will be the title sponsor for this year’s event, and the full slate of entertainment that had been booked for last year’s festival has remained on tap for this year’s event, taking the hiatus last year as simply a postponement.

Despite the fact that last year’s event was canceled, the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival still continued its tradition of awarding college scholarships to 12 area students.

Several other events are also moving forward at Heritage Port this summer, including the city of Wheeling’s weekly Waterfront Wednesdays and Toe Tappin’ Tuesdays, as well as the annual Heritage Music BluesFest in August.

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