St. Jude Italian Festival attracts a big crowd on opening night

MONROE, CT — A steady stream of traffic lined up at the parking area on Fireman’s Field promptly at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening, right on time for the start of this year’s St. Jude Italian Festival, which will be held on the parish grounds at 707 Monroe Turnpike every night through Saturday.

Batches of burgers and sausage and peppers sizzled on the grills under the food tent, where a hungry crowd already showed up for dinner. Food trucks sold ice cream, cotton candy, Italian ice and pizza fritta. Games were played for prizes and children sought early thrills on the amusement rides.

“We’re blessed with good weather and the fact it’s not a school night,” said The Rev. Joseph Gill, pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church. “This is the last hurrah right before school. I think people are excited that we brought back some of the old food. We have Italian food from Jennies.”

Aside from enjoying the games and rides provided by Stewart Amusements, festival goers bought raffle tickets from volunteers at one station. Nearby, another group of volunteers ran a gift shop.

“This is our only fundraiser,” Gill said. “It takes about 150 volunteers.”

The festival continues Thursday and Friday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, from 5 to 10 p.m.

“We’ll pray for Friday,” Gill said, alluding to possible rain in the forecast. “We just invite everyone. All are welcome.”

Jim Goldstein, owner of JMG Music Entertainment, is flanked by sons, Joseph, 12, left, and Jonathan, 14.

Music is being provided by Jim Goldstein of JMG Music Entertainment, with help from his two sons, Jonathan, 14, and Joseph, 12.

“This is my 31st year,” said Goldstein, who lives in Monroe.

The late John LaBarca of WICC radio used to deejay for the Italian Festival with live performances by Angie Rubino and his band on Wednesday nights, while Goldstein’s business provided music on Friday.

Over time, JMG covered more nights and Goldstein said he’s been working all four nights for the past decade.

Goldstein’s sons go to Monroe schools, so they get to see their friends while volunteering with their father at the festival.

“It’s nice to see,” he said. “It’s a nice family event. It’s the close of summer. School is starting soon. Then it’s back to the grind.”

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