18th Annual Mercer County Italian American Festival kicks off Friday

The Fralinger String Band is scheduled to perform at the 2017 Mercer County Italian American Festival.
The Fralinger String Band is scheduled to perform at the 2017 Mercer County Italian American Festival.Submitted Photos
The Vivaci Dancers are scheduled to perform at the 2017 Mercer County Italian American Festival.
The Vivaci Dancers are scheduled to perform at the 2017 Mercer County Italian American Festival.

Get ready for Central New Jersey’s number-one festival as the 18th Annual Mercer County Italian American Festival takes over the festival grounds at Mercer County Park for three days of days of great food, music, fun, and culture…Italian-style. Opening at 3:00 pm on Friday, September 22, the festival runs through Sunday, September 24.

Created to share and celebrate all things Italian, the festival includes a Food Piazza; an Italian Market with Italian specialty products; a Heritage Pavilion with art, crafts and memorabilia; the indoor Cultural Theater with cultural presentations throughout the weekend; entertainment on two stages including national acts on the Investors Bank Stage; amusement rides; bocce; children’s activities; and the fireworks spectacular on Saturday.


Sauce or gravy, cannoli or pasticiotti, wine or beer – whatever your preference, it’s all in the Food Piazza at the Mercer County Italian American Festival. Traversing the center of the festival grounds, the Piazza contains more than 40 food vendors serving everything from vodka rigatoni to cannoli. Perennial favorites, Mamma Rosa’s Restaurant and Pete’s Steak House, both located in Hamilton, NJ, return with their crowd pleasing menus including mussels, eggplant and chicken cacciatore. Station One Seafood, from Atlantic Highlands, NJ is back with steamed clams, calamari and more. Buzzetta’s Festival Foods, who have been with the festival since day one, will be serving their crowd pleasing sausage peppers and onions sandwiches and DeLorenzo’s Pizza on the Go will be bringing their world-famous Trenton Tomato Pie to the Food Piazza. North End Deli, traveling all the way from Lawrence Massachusetts is back for just their second year serving their signature entree, arancini (rice balls). They sold out last year so make sure to get there early.

Among the new vendors this year is Cheech A’ Cini’s Truckin’ Trattoria, known as the “Home of the Pastacini”, for their signature dish, a delicious pasta and cheese ball derived from an old family recipe. Italian Peoples Bakery from Trenton, NJ, Scala Bakery from North Brunswick, NJ, and Maddalena’s Cheesecake from Ringoes, NJ will be joined by festival newcomer, Potito’s from Philadelphia, PA offering primo Italian pastries and desserts.

There will be two Beer and Wine Cafes. Bud Light, the official festival beer, will be served in both cafes along with Birra Moretti, Shock Top, Goose Island IPA, and gluten-free Strongbow Cider. The cafes will feature three varieties of wine from the award-winning Hopewell Valley Vineyards including Rosso della Valle, Pinot Grigio, White Merlot.


Enjoy three days of continuous entertainment on two stages including the Investors Bank Stage and the Cabaret Tent. Featuring a stellar line-up of national performers and local favorites, entertainment includes Ray Massa’s EuroRhythms, the best Italian show band in North America, performing both Friday and Saturday. Also on appearing on Friday is The Brooklyn Bridge singing their hits including Worst That Could Happen and Welcome Me Love with their new frontman, Joe “Bean” Esposito.

Saturday, funnyman Floyd Vivino makes his third appearance at the festival after a rousing, standing-room-only performance last year. Plus creating a “Saturday Night Fever” will be the world’s #1 Bees Gees tribute band, Stayin’ Alive. Closing out the night is the festival’s annual fireworks spectacular.

On Sunday, perennial festival favorites, Gil ‘Bud’ Palmer and Lou Sciara, return with their tribute to Bud Abbott and fellow New Jerseyan and accomplished Italian American, Lou Costello, in “The Abbott and Costello Show” appearing in the Cabaret Tent. Also on Sunday, for opera lovers, Boheme Opera NJ appears on the Investors Bank Stage. One of New Jersey’s premier regional opera companies, Boheme Opera NJ has been recognized by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts with three Citations of Excellence.

The stellar line-up also includes the “Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Show” with Sonny Averona Jr. as Dean Martin and Johnny “Bones” Cipparone as Jerry Lewis; Vivaci, the Italian dance troupe from Philadelphia appears Saturday; the BRAG Band appears Sunday playing AM Radio Gold; and for the little ones, Penny and the Puppettes will be appearing all three days with several shows each day. The complete line-up of 36 performances from 24 performers can be found online at http://www.italianamericanfestival.com/entertainment.cfm.


The festival features more than 20 amusement rides from Majestic Midways. Munchkinland is back, featuring attractions and rides for guests too small to ride the main attractions. It includes a soft play area for children under 36” tall and coin operated rides and games for those under 42” tall. There will be a changing station for parents with young children and benches for adults to rest.


The Mercer County Italian American Festival’s Fireworks Spectacular lights up the sky on Saturday following Stayin’ Alive’s performance.


Presentations happen all weekend in the Cultural Theater. Located in the Heritage Pavilion, the Cultural Theater’s presentations extend from the Traditional Italian Remedies of an Italian Grandfather to world famous pizza tossers.


Shop the streets of an Italian village in the two Italian Market tents with vendors selling traditional and contemporary Italian products. Jewelry and other crafts are in the Italian Heritage Pavilion.


Bocce, located under its own tent on the main festival grounds, is available all three days. Play for fun; join a mini-tournament or watch and cheer.


Start Sunday with a Catholic Mass at 11:00 am at the Investors Bank Stage. Then join the recreation of a long time Chambersburg “Feast of Lights” tradition when the statue of the Madonna di Casandrino is carried in procession, complete with a traditional Italian street band. Parking and admission are free for those arriving before 11:00 am on Sunday to attend Mass.

The 18th Annual Mercer County Italian American Festival will take place September 22 – 24, 2017 at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, New Jersey. Created to celebrate and share all things Italian, the festival will be open 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm on Friday, September 22; 12:00 noon to 11:00 pm on Saturday, September 23; and 12:00 noon to 9:30 pm on Sunday, September 24. Admission to the festival is $5.00. Children 12 years of age and younger are admitted free compliments of XFINITY. Senior Citizens, 65 years of age and older, pay only $4.00. The Mercer County Park Commission will be charging $5.00 for on-site parking. Military personnel in uniform receive free parking and admission. The festival is a rain or shine event with plenty of covered areas for your comfort. Pets are not permitted. Complete details and schedules can be found at

www.ItalianAmericanFestival.com. Contact the Mercer County Italian American Festival Association at 609-631-7544 or visit the Festival facebook page for the latest news. The Mercer County Italian American Festival is a presentation of the Mercer County Italian American Festival Association, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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