Dec 14, 2013 11:00AM - 7:00PM
Feast of the seven fishes festival
206 Adams St.
Fairmont, WEST VIRGINIA 26554
Contact phone: 304-366-0468
Web site: http://www.mainstreetfairmont.org
The Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival is held the second Saturday in December to celebrate the Italian Christmas Eve tradition. It’s a one day event with food, shopping, music, cooking demos, fish, and a street market. Little old ladies dancing to polka, authentic cuisine, and a community preserving a once-fading tradition— a festival brings a bit of Italy to the forefront in historic Fairmont.
The Marion County community invites people to share its Italian heritage at the Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival on Dec. 14. “The festival provides a throw-back to the way we experienced the holidays when I was kid – actually doing things like eating and visiting and listening to music and enjoying one another’s company,” said Robert Tinnell, one of the founders of the festival, whose award-applauded graphic novel helped re-spark interest in the tradition. “I want to build Christmas memories somewhere other than the mall, you know?”
The centerpiece of the festival is the food. Reviving the Italian tradition of a “meatless” family holiday feast, demos from the Festival Cucina cooking school show visitors how to make a variety of the courses from gourmet seafood, praise-worthy sides and decedent desserts – all step by step, so they can take the tradition home. The recipes change, so festival-goers can learn to cook new meals, all authentic Italian cuisine. Local restaurants will also showcase their heritage ties, with cultural favorites like lupine beans, fried smelt, stuffed calamari, pastries and breads. The public can also show off their own culinary prowess in the homemade contests, of Italian favorites of course— wine and cookies.
There’s plenty more Italian tradition to explore once you’re full. Local crafters will showcase the best of both their Italian roots and the Appalachian culture it helped shape. Browse freshly-cut wreaths, West Virginia glassware, Italian-style pottery and crafts, and other gifts unique to the area. The entertainment also highlights Italy’s finest, blending the country’s musical stylings and dances with classic holiday carols.
“The area’s Italian heritage is central to our identity,” Tinnell said. “Recognition of something that, well, makes us ‘us,’ is big deal.” Tinnell wrote “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” a graphic novel, because he wanted to help preserve the tradition important to his childhood. When the book took off, earning an Eisner Award nomination and national attention, he looked to restoring the feast where it began for him, his hometown. One of the most important elements of planning, according to Tinnell, is keeping the festival authentic and intimate. It’s not a commercial event; it’s a community’s way of sharing sacred, long-observed tradition. This was a perfect fit for the area, according to Leisha Elliott, the director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Marion County. “This festival invites people to our ‘table’ to share a unique tradition,” Elliott said. “Italy had—still has— a big influence on our culture. Finding ways to share our rich history, and really bring people into our heritage story, is part of that culture, too. We’re sharers.”
The festival is free and open to the public. The streets, decorated for the holidays, will open at 11 a.m., and festivities will continue until 7:30 that night. Weather doesn’t need to be a concern; if the seasonal sharing doesn’t warm your heart, the street heaters and sizzle of the grill will.
Schedule of Events:
11 am: OPENING CEREMONY
11:30 – 12:30: Traditional Christmas Music – local children’s groups
1:00 – 2:30: Amici
3:00 – 5:00: 5 Guys Named Moe
5:30 – 6:30: Sam & Ott (Accordion Music) Italian Street Performances from the Zany Umbrella Circus woven throughout the day’s events. The Zany Umbrella is an internationally acclaimed company from Pittsburgh, PA.
noon – 2:00: Festival Cucina (Feast Cooking School), Featuring Music by Sam & Ott noon – 2:00: Homemade Wine/Cookie/Sauce Contests
2:30: Announcements of Contest Winners
Ongoing: Home-brew Demonstrations/Samples
Ongoing: Bocce Ball