1999 Program Cover
West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival
This annual festival, which was founded to
celebrate the cultural heritage of Italian-Americans in West
Virginia, drew 100,000 visitors over three days in 1999. Since
1979, the event has been traditionally held on historic Main
Street, Clarksburg, over Labor Day weekend. During opening
ceremonies, the royal court of Regina Maria is crowned. In 1999,
this included one queen, two maids of honor, 25 princesses, and a
minor court of children between ages six and eight. Other
festivities involve a bocce tournament, authentic Italian
dancers, a wine garden, Italian religious observances, strolling
minstrels, a morra contest, Italian food, crafts, concerts, and a
In the early 1900s, thousands of Italian immigrants
came to America, searching for a better life. The average immigrant
arrived in New York City with $17. The largest influx of Italian
immigrants arrived when coal mining companies were recruiting
thousands of men to work the deep mines of West Virginia; Italian
immigrants also found work on railroads and farms. Usually the men
came first, then sent for their wives and children after they had
saved enough money.
By the second half of the century, Italian-Americans
excelled in every career field, including law, medicine, teaching,
and the arts. Religion and family have continued to be an important
part of their heritage. In the new millennium, more
Italian-Americans are rediscovering their roots, returning to Italy
to seek out a relative, baptismal records, or any other family
reference. Because Italian-Americans, in their zest to secure lives
in America, saved little information regarding their ancestors'
history, the West Virginia Heritage Festival was founded to
preserve and present their cultural traditions for each new
Documentation comprises a five-page legacy report, a
video from the 1999 festival of a children's concert; a brochure,
festival commemorative souvenir books from 1980-1981, 1984,
1986-1988, 1991, 1994, 1996-1999; and a 1988 leather-bound book
documenting West Virginia Italian-Americas.
Originally submitted by: Allan B. Mollohan, Representative (1st District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.