Italian Festival bringing new activities for this year's event

May 9—Italian Festival organizers are bringing some new activities to this year's event — part of their goal to make the 2024 festival even better.

This year's 52nd Annual McAlester Italian Festival is set for May 10-11, Friday and Saturday, at the Southeast Expo Center.

"We're real excited," said Italian Festival Committee Chairman Johnna Smith, with Donna Parham serving as festival co-chairman.

Something new for this year is the Friday night Party on the Lawn, featuring the opening act Jumpsuit Love at 8 p.m., with headlining act Disco Queen set to follow at 9:15 p.m. on the outdoor stage.

Attendance at the concerts is free, Smith said. Food trucks and a beer truck will have items available for purchase.

To help get ready for the event, volunteers with the Italian Festival Committee have already prepared some of the meat dishes that will be available at the Spaghetti Tent.

"We cooked 800 pounds of meatballs and 600 pounds of sausages," Smith said, with the committee members using the kitchen at the McAlester High School Cafeteria to cook the food.

Meatballs and sausages are kept refrigerated, with the spaghetti and sauce for the Italian spaghetti dinners to be added during the festival. Pizzas and Italian sandwiches will also be available.

The festival is set be open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday, May 10, and from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 11.

"We have worked real hard this year to trying to make this festival bigger and better with the loss of our faithful chairman, Bobby Lenardo," Smith said. "We are trying to make him proud."

Also, the Meatball Nationals Car, Truck and Bike Show is set from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. Once again, a full carnival will be operating on the festival grounds.

Another popular event, the Spaghetti Eating Contest for children, is set from noon until 12:30 p.m. on Saturday near the festival's main stage.

Although the festival is starting on Friday, its opening ceremony, when this year's Re and Regina will be crowned, is set for 10:30 a.m. Saturday on the main festival stage.

Also during the opening ceremony, this year's Italian Festival scholarship winners will be announced.

Once again, vendors both inside and outside the Southeast Expo Center will have a variety of items for sale.

With the new events and the continuation of the traditional ones, festival organizers are hoping this year's Italian Festival will be one of the best ever.

"We're trying hard to get it bigger and better," Smith said.

"We're trying to bring more people in, not only for us; the Dancing Rabbit Music Festival is Saturday too," said Smith.

With fair weather in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, organizers are hoping the festival is well-attended.

"We look forward to having everyone come out this year," Smith said.

"Vieni a trovarci," she said. "That's 'come see us' in Italian."