By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Today’s forecast is cloudy with a chance for thousands of meatballs with plenty of spaghetti sauce.
Aromas drifting Friday from the Bluefield Union Mission were a preview of what’s on the menu today for the 19th Annual Southern West Virginia Italian-American Festival.
Open today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bluefield City Auditorium along Stadium Drive, the festival will offer entertainment and an Italian food buffet. Volunteers spent much of Friday cooking meatballs and sauce for today’s event. Savory smells filled the Union Mission as cookers filled with sauce and meatballs simmered.
“We’re trying to get a little bit of cooking down,” said Nick Ameli with the Sons of Italy. “We’ve done 3,000 meatballs in addition to the 3,000 we did a month ago. We did 75 gallons of spaghetti sauce today and we did 75 gallons yesterday.”
In another room, volunteer Bill Bowling was stirring a cooking vat filled with 40 gallons of simmering spaghetti sauce. Meatballs were being cooked again in the sauce, adding to their flavor.
“Doesn’t that look good?” Bowling asked as he stirred. He always gets some sauce and meatballs when his daughter and grandchildren come to visit. The vat he was tending wasn’t the only one in operation.
“There are another five cookers with five gallons each,” Ameli said. “We’re hoping for a good crowd. It’s all cooked by the FBI: Full-blooded Italians.”
The Union Mission helps the fundraising effort by letting the Sons of Italy use the facility’s equipment.
“They are so helpful to us. If not for them, we could not do this,” Ameli said.
Entertainment will include Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tim McGraw and Dolly Parton tribute artists along with the Red Wigglers Bluegrass Band. Admission is free. A buffet including lasagna, spaghetti, meatballs, sausage, Italian sausage subs, salads, bread, and homemade desserts is $10. Ameli said cannolis would also be available.
Two new features this year will be bungee jumping and mechanical bull riding, Ameli said. A golf cart provided courtesy of the festival’s sponsor, Ramey Auto Group, will provide shuttle service at the parking lot.