With an Italian flag hanging from their century-old home, members of the Salerno family slowly paraded across their green-carpeted porch Saturday carrying Styrofoam containers of their favorite Italian meals — just like they have for more than 30 years.
Every September, family members come together at their homestead on Third Street, which has been in the family since 1901, to enjoy the annual Felittese Festival. Located next door to the Salerno home, the two-day festival began in the late 1980s and features a variety of homemade foods, including porketta, gnocchi, meatballs, soffritto and tripe.
Norah Moon, 13, of Clarks Summit, was the fourth generation of Salerno family represented at the annual get-together. Her great-great aunts, Ann and Rita Salerno, live at the Third Street home. Family members came from across the area and New York.
“It’s nice because you get to see a lot of family and friends you haven’t seen,” Norah said, adding that it can be a bit nerve-wracking meeting so many new family members.
Her father, John Moon, 36, has been coming to the festival for at least 26 years. As Norah has gotten older, she has come to appreciate the significance of the family get-together more, her dad said.
Moon estimated that at least a dozen family members come to the festival each day. By gathering with so many relatives, he wants his daughter “just to take away a sense of family and getting together,” he said.
Just like the Salerno family, members of the Felittese Association, which organizes the festival, carry on family traditions.
Like other members of the association, both Louis Mazza and Jo Ann Graziano’s grandparents came from Felitto, Italy. Both Felitto and Old Forge hold the festival that commemorates Our Lady of Constantinople, the patron saint of Felitto.
“We carry on this tradition for our parents,” Graziano said. “All this work that we do is for our parents.”
Their parents helped bring back the festival in the 1980s. The tradition originally took hold in Old Forge in the late 1920s but petered out around World War II, Mazza said. Although his parents have passed away, organizing the festival helps him feel a connection with them, he said.
“It’s also a time for people to come together,” he said, explaining it’s a way to identify with their past and their heritage.
Volunteers begin preparing for the festival as early as July. Together, they make about 1,600 pounds of gnocchi, 400 pounds of tripe, 400 pounds of soffritto and 500 pounds of porketta, Graziano said.
The Felittese Association is a nonprofit, and all of its funds go toward local organizations and charities, Mazza said.
The organizer teared up as he explained their most meaningful contribution: buying Christmas presents for underprivileged children in the borough. They give away about $10,000 each year, and 25 percent of that goes toward presents, he said.
Raising money for the organizations, especially the children, is a wonderful feeling, said Graziano, who helps purchase the gifts.
“We’re very happy to do it,” she said. “It takes a lot of work, a lot of time, but we do it. We enjoy it.”