By Teri West
It wouldn’t be August in North Hyde Park without the smell of zeppoles and pizza beneath a bright fireworks display.
The Cellini Lodge Italian Festival is back beginning Aug. 22 for five evenings of food, music and rides in Tully Park.
Cellini Lodge No. 2206, the local lodge of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy, hosts the annual event.
Live music will include both Italian acts and popular American tunes. There will be rides for all ages, including a Ferris wheel and carnival games.
Adults can enjoy a wine booth (with a “mean sangria,” notes chapter president Mark Ventimiglia) and a gambling tent.
A variety of food will be available for sale, including pasta and zeppoles – an Italian pastry made of fried dough – that chapter members prepare by hand.
“We tout ourselves as having the best zeppoles on Long Island,” said Lynn Marino, the lodge’s corresponding secretary. “The line can sometimes be almost 50 people long at the end of the night.”
Event planning begins as early as January, and festival chair Anthony Calabro is the maestro behind the operation. He learned about the beloved community event when he moved into the neighborhood 21 years ago. This is his second year organizing it.
“It’s very gratifying,” Calabro said. “It’s a great sense of accomplishment when it’s done.”
Over 200 lodge volunteers come out to help it run smoothly. The lodge will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September.
The affair typically attracts 10,000 to 15,000 attendees, and some return multiple times, Marino said.
The New Hyde Park Memorial High School parking lot will be available during the festival as well as street parking. Festival entry is $1 and free for children under age five.
Proceeds go to local organizations and charities that the Sons and Daughters of Italy support, such as Autism Speaks and Ronald McDonald House.
The organization also provides scholarships to members attending college and to public schools that teach Italian culture.
The festival highlight for Calabro and Ventimiglia is on Saturday evening when guests gather on the lawn to watch a fireworks display.
“The sense of community is always there, and that’s the big thing about it,” Calabro said. “It really gives back to our community because we give them so much fun. We give the families a day out.”