Rides like "The Wacky Shack" and the "Scrambler" provided thrills for children, music by Angie Rubino and the Rubinos filled the air and long lines formed around the food tent for sausage and peppers, pizza fretes and other fare during St. Jude Church's 22nd annual Italian Festival Wednesday night — and the good times will continue into Saturday.
Pete Lucia, chairman of the festival, said organizers strive to provide the three "F"'s: Family, Food and Fun.
"I think it's very popular," Lucia said of the festival. "It's an official end to the summer before the kids go back to college — and the younger kids go back to school next week. The food here is phenomenal, pastries from Luigi's and everyone loves Italian food."
When it comes to food, sausage and peppers and pizza fretes are the favorites, according to Lucia. If the sunny weather on opening day carries through the weekend, he estimates that over 2,500 pizza fretes and 300 pounds of sausages will be sold.
Festival hours are Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m.; Friday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday from 5 to 10:30 p.m.
Festival goers can win prizes by putting their skills to the test in games sponsored by Newtown Savings Bank, like Whac "A" Mole, Water Gun Fun and Hoop Shots and Lucia said there is a good mix of rides for younger and older kids, including bumper cars and "The Wacky Shack".
Jim Goldstein from JMG DJ will provide the music on Thursday and Friday and Atwood Express will play hits from the 50's to the 90's on Saturday.
Lucia said the Italian Festival is St. Jude Parish's biggest fundraiser, adding proceeds are used for capital improvements throughout the Monroe Turnpike campus.
"We paved last year," he said. "A project to replace the air-conditioning in the church was done this month. Next is a project to replace the wall of the school."
Lucia said using money from the festival allows St. Jude to use its regular funds for the ministry of the parish and religious education programs.