SPRING HILL — An experience rich in Italian culture — from the palate to the ear and eye — will be showcased this weekend at the Feast of Little Italy, presented by the Spring Hill Community Association.
The three-day event, which gets under way this afternoon, will be held at the community association's 17-acre Lake House on Kenlake Avenue.
About 60 vendors will serve up authentic Italian food and beverages, art and home traditions while musical entertainment will take over the stage.
Association president Ed Lawrence predicts that, weather permitting, the event may attract up to 20,000 visitors.
"We've done this twice before on a smaller scale. We want to do it on a larger scale," Lawrence said.
An earlier one-day program that featured the Legends of Doo Wop, with music of the 1950s and '60s, drew a crowd of 3,200, he said. It was the quartet's lead singer, Tommy Mara of Spring Hill, who proposed the larger festival and invited Via Productions of West Palm Beach to get involved.
The folks at Via liked what they saw when they visited Spring Hill.
In addition to the Legends of Doo Wop, performers will include local 12-year-old singer Matthew Romeo. Food vendors will include Cara Mia Italian Restaurant and Dentico's Tropical Grill, both of Spring Hill.
"The festival is not just for Italians," Via spokeswoman Jennifer Shiner emphasized. It's for all people of all ages who appreciate a festival atmosphere.
Carnival rides will be available for youngsters. Booths will sell Italian jewelry, merchandise, kitchenware, Italian novelties and art.
Food purveyors will sell fried ravioli, shrimp scampi, pizza, calzones and classic Italian fried pastries.
Beverages will include Italian wines and beer, limoncello, coffee and espresso.
A kickoff parade at 3 p.m. today will honor Tommy Mara as grand marshal on his 55th birthday.
As for the music, here's the rundown:
• Today's headliner, at 8 p.m., will be Italian crooner Gianni Russo, who appeared in The Godfather. Matthew Romeo is scheduled at 5 p.m. today and 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
• The Legends of Doo Wop go on at 8 p.m. Saturday.
• Romantic vocalist Franco Corso performs at 4 p.m. Sunday, and Joey Dee & the Starlighters at 6 p.m.
Admission includes all music. Tickets will be sold for the carnival rides, and there will be a cost for food and beverages.
Twenty percent of gate admissions will go to the community association. Lawrence said money is needed for grounds and facility maintenance and to replace landscaping equipment lost in two recent burglaries.
The association also would like to expand its Lake House community center and launch a scholarship fund for high school students throughout Hernando County.
With large crowds expected, organizers advise visitors to bring lawn chairs.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.