WARREN - It's the weekend everyone in Trumbull County claims to be Italian.
The 28th annual Italian-American Heritage Festival kicked off Thursday on Courthouse Square downtown and will run until Sunday.
As usual, food was in the forefront of most of those walking the streets, as pizza and pasta dishes were among the most popular fare.
Tribune Chronicle / Joe Gorman
Benjamin Hilston, 2, grabs of a bite to eat on Friday off the plate of his mother, Amy Hilston, at the Italian-American Heritage Festival in downtown Warren. Lee Chapman watches. More photos from the fest are on Page 1B.
Amy Hilston of Boardman, who grew up in Lordstown, was sitting on the curb on West Market Street balancing a couple of plates with her son, Benjamin, 2..
''I like the food and it's something fun to do and it gives me a chance to come back to my hometown,'' Hilston said.
Brian Daugherty of Warren was also on the curb eating cavatelli with his 7-year-old son Jacob. Dad comes to eat and his son likes to eat as well as have fun.
''I like the food and he comes for the rides,'' the elder Daugherty said.
But there is more than food and rides. Visitors also can visit one of the cultural displays by the courthouse and get a crash course in Italian history.
Chris Flaviani, who has been involved with the festival for its entire 28 years, was working the display tent Friday evening with her husband, Joe, and Karen Massari.
Inside, there are flags of all provinces of Italy on display as well as tables with a different facet of Italian history spelled out.
Flaviani said she thinks it's important to be involved with the festival because she is proud of her heritage.
''I think it's important to keep our heritage intact,'' Flaviani said. ''We're proud of that.''
She also passed that pride on to her daughters, Janet Yaksic and Diane Flaviani, who were visiting their mother.
Janet said she also tries to pass on her Italian roots to her children.
''I just teach them where we're from and the different things about out family,'' she said, before adding, ''Oh, and also the food.''
The festival kicks resumes at 9 a.m. today with a bocce tournament. Other highlights include a wine tasting competition at 1 p.m., a pasta sauce contest at 1:30 p.m. and a morra tournament at 2 p.m.
Singers Moreno Fruzzetti and Graziana, who last appeared at the festival in 2009, return to perform on the main stage both today and Sunday.
The traditional outdoor Italian Mass opens the final day of the festival, and the annual parade steps off at 2 p.m. with Shawn Pompelia, vice president at Huntington National Bank, as parade master.
The festival concludes with a fireworks display at 11 p.m.