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Mangia!: Food and fun abundant at ItaliaFest

Visitors check out food and craft vendors on Saturday at Amsterdan's ItaliaFest on Bridge Street. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

AMSTERDAM — Mike Crossman’s biggest reason for attending the annual ItaliaFest Saturday was simple: “I like the meatballs.”

The fest started out as a block party but has long since stretched to several blocks and side lots. Food was abundant, as were handcrafted items. Rows of chairs were filled with people just listening to live music.

At times, the clouds seemed menacing, but the afternoon stayed dry.

“I can’t believe how big it has gotten,” said Jan Tucci of Broadalbin, a retired Amsterdam special education teacher.

She recalled Amsterdam as “a depressed city, slowing spiraling down.” But activities such as these encourage her. “The city will come back,” she predicted. “Amsterdam needs more of this.”

From left, Kaelee Ossenfort, Isabella Nielsen and Alaina Agresta all got pinwheel fans on Saturday at Amsterdam's ItaliaFest on Bridge Street. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Lissette Majewski of Amsterdam also said she was “pretty impressed” with the fest. “There are a lot more vendors,” she said.

Free rides for the children were a real plus, said Chad Maye of Amsterdam. “There are a lot of kids in Amsterdam whose families don’t have anything,” he explained.

“I’m Italian,” said Maria Nielsen of Amsterdam. “My parents came from Italy. I went to high school in Italy, and I teach Italian at Troy High School.”

She said she sees the ItaliaFest highlighting “my heritage and supporting my nationality.”

She and her husband were with their daughter Isabella Nielsen, and two neighboring girls, Kaelee Ossenfort and Alaina Agresta. All the girls were delighted to have pinwheels to play with.

People go to and fro on an amusement ride Saturday at Amsterdam's ItaliaFest on Bridge Street. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Former city resident Larry Nasadoski came from Mayfield to the fest. “I know a lot of friends,” he said. “I run into people I haven’t seen in a while.”

Michele Quist of Amsterdam said, “I hope to meet a lot of new friends.”

Because the fest is in the heart of the Southside, it is within easy walking distance for people such as Bob Wallin, who said, “I live right up the street.”

Despite the inner-city nature of the event, cars lined the side streets and lots, and parking seemed to be accessible.

“It’s relaxing–the people, the food,” said Rick Spagnola of Amsterdam.

Gina O’Brien, whose parents own Armory Grill, said business has been good. “Every year it’s better,” she said.

“They should do two days next year.”

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