Mercer County Italian American Festival

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About the time I entered into my teenage years, I became unreasonably proud of my Italian heritage. I claimed to anyone who would listen that I was a one hundred percent, full blooded Italian. If I could have faked an accent well enough, I would have. I was obsessed with The Godfather, A Bronx Tale and any other blockbusters even remotely Italian. When I got my driver’s license, I had ‘Sicilia’ printed at a car decal shop to fit the entire back window of my Mercury Mountaineer.

It was obnoxious.

It was perhaps even more obnoxious that I completely ignored the other nationalities streaming through my veins, of which Hungarian made up a far larger chunk than Italian.

Today I can only reason that the pull towards my Italian heritage was based on two things.

  1. We live in New Jersey. I’m not going to throw the percentages in your face, but we have a lot of Italians here.
  2. Because we have a lot of Italians here, we have Italian American Festivals as well.
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Enjoying Dolce and Clemente’s vodka penne and meatballs. Both = life changing.

My obsession actually dates back to my 12th birthday when my parents took me into Chambersburg during The Feast of Lights. After a traditional Italian dinner, we roamed the streets and the passion for all things Italian was ignited.

Chambersburg has changed since then and the Mercer County Italian American Festival is now the place offering that same wonder glow I experienced towards all things Italian at twelve.

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Mark your calendar for the last weekend of September.* The festival lasts Friday through Sunday and aside from the incredible food, there are Italian American entertainers, rides, shopping and sports. Bocce anyone?

*I know. At this point, it is 11 months away. But isn’t it about time that you became efficient and started planning things in advance?**

**I may or may not be only talking to myself here.

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Cheesecake ice cream sandwich.

You know me. I was there for the food and couldn’t manage to sit still until I surveyed the entire property and bought one of everything.

One year I’m going to go and stay the entire day, forcing myself to enjoy all the different entertainers, as well as the food. Usually we’ll sit and listen for a few minutes, but the glamour of food carts will drag us away. This year we enjoyed a few Italian arias as we ate our penne and meatballs.

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Two things you must get to eat when you go to an Italian American Festival:

  1. Sausage and peppers–duh.*
  2. Zeppolis

Do I have pictures of either of these? No. Food so delicious cannot be ooed and ahhed over. It must be eaten immediately.

In case you have never enjoyed a zeppoli before they are the Italian version of a doughnut…in the most literal sense possible. They are little nuggets of dough, fried, then tossed into a paper bag with at least two pounds of powdered sugar.

If anyone ever gives you a zeppoli that is not served in a paper bag–run!

*Please note: Sausage and peppers and Italian hot dogs (described below) are not the same thing! Make sure that you order one of each. And if you don’t bring one home for dad, well, you just had better not come home.**

**Wait, again, I think that was only for me.

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Fred’s Kitchen food truck was serving up hot dogs–the Italian hot dog was listed at the top of the menu.

If you have never heard of an Italian hot dog, I need to know just one thing.

Who are you???

Italian hot dogs should become the standard for how hot dogs are served. For me, it means an all beef hot dog (let’s go with a quarter pounder, please!) tossed on an Italian roll and topped with fried potatoes, peppers and onions.

Eat it like that or top it with condiments, either way it is heaven.

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These goofballs decided to try something new. Lance ordered the Philly dog (hot dog smothered in Philly cheese steak) and Jonathan ordered the Trenton dog (hot dog with porkroll and cheese).

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The Trenton dog just might be the new twist on the Italian hot dog. Throw on a few fried potatoes, peppers and onions and you got yourself a Trenton Italian hot dog.

I think it is going to catch on.

Just remember, you heard it here.

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Bring friends. You must, you must, you must bring friends and family to an Italian American Festival. Why? Because someone in your group is going to want to venture the rickety old roller coasters (Jonathan) and others in your group (Lance and me) are not going to be brave enough nor will they want to spend a fortune in order to put their lives into the hands of do-it-yourself carnival gods.

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In our case, we managed to talk Jonathan out of the rides by treating him to a pineapple smoothie. Can I have smoothies served to me like this always and forever?

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