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Grazie, Collinsville

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If you were asked to name American cities with a strong Italian heritage, would “Collinsville, Illinois” feature anywhere on that list? Probably not –- but it should. While Collinsville may not have a Scorsese or a Sinatra to help cement its image as an Italiano hotbed like Manhattan and Hoboken are, it does have the annual Italian Fest, now celebrating 24 years of love, Italian-style. All right, so a quarter of a century isn’t quite as grand as the legacy of Manhattan, or even the Hill. But it’s a good start. And besides, as free festivals go, the Italian Fest is one of the goofier good times you’ll find. From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday (September 21 and 22), downtown Collinsville (221 West Main Street, Collinsville, Illinois; 618-344-2884 or www.italianfest.info) becomes a butts-to-nuts mass of people eating Italian beef sandwiches, toasted ravioli and funnel cakes. (What? It ain’t a festival without funnel cake.) The late-night bicycle ride through town (the Paisan Pedal Push) and the grape stomp give those with an active lifestyle something to do, and the younger set can bust moves in the new “Club Italia,” a temporary, age-appropriate teen nightclub. Of course, if you want to be age-inappropriate and dance in front of the music stage where everybody can see you, that’s your business. As they say, “When in Collinsville, do as the Collinsvillains do.” (They don’t say that –- not yet, anyway.)
Fri., Sept. 21; Sat., Sept. 22, 2007

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