NEW CASTLE — This year, the St. Vitus Festival will finish with a bang.
Actually, whole bunch of them.
After a prolonged absence, the four-day event — which opened last night and continues through Saturday — is bringing back a closing fireworks show. Pyrotecnico will do the honors at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We haven’t had fireworks for quite a while,” said festival organizer Anthony “Bo” DeCarbo. “To be honest, we really never really had a place to shoot them. That was our big problem.”
Previous launches from nearby Agway and Ellwood Quality Steels both experienced some problems, “so after that, we just kind of backed off it a little bit — it became such a big thing with insurance and all that.”
Earlier this year, though, festival organizers hooked up with Pyrotecnico, and representatives of that company examined the area, looking for a suitable spot from which to launch. An area off the Columbus Inner Belt used for the downtown Fireworks Festival was considered, DeCarbo said, but organizers had hoped for something a bit closer to the grounds of the South Mercer Street church and school.
That finally came about with the help of Upstate Shredding/Weitsman Recycling of Owego, N.Y., which will be building a facility on the site where the former Pennsylvania Engineering buildings were recently razed.
“We’ve developed a good relationship with them, and they’re going to let us shoot from there,” DeCarbo said.
Also new to the festival this year are amusements provided by Thomas Family Services out of Greensburg. Their rides replace ones that belonged originally to the former children’s area of Cascade Park, which have been given back to the city of New Castle after being used for multiple years by St. Vitus.
“They (Thomas) brought five rides in and they brought a couple of games,” DeCarbo said, “and of course, we have all of our games and our tents.”
A gift basket auction rounds out this year’s new events.
“We got the lectors to do a basket, the eucharistic ministers to do a basket, the choir to do a basket — each one of the organizations,” DeCarbo said. “We’re going to have five or six baskets you can take a chance on, and most of these baskets are worth up to $100 — Steelers basket, a lottery basket, a book basket, a food basket. They’ve got all kinds.”
Of course, the festival also offers its traditional favorites, such as tonight’s Baby Doll Dance, and homemade foods including pasta fagioli; cavatelli; fried dough; pepperoni puffs; meatball, sausage and steak sandwiches; chicken on a stick; chicken salad; hot dogs; french fries and spiral fries; lemon shakes; ice cream; and white tomato pizza.
Cavatelli and pasta fagioli sales start daily at 4 p.m. The rest of the games, food and entertainment begin at 6.
“The key to it all has been Father Frank (Almade),” DeCarbo said. “He has been tremendous for us. He sorta just lets us take the ball and run with it.
“That’s very helpful when you have that trust.”