When it comes to summer church festivals, longevity and tradition matter.
But so does having a good time.
Just ask Tom Rizzo, the longtime festival chairman at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church.
“As I like to say, ‘Come for the cannoli, stay for the entertainment,’ ” he said.
The parish is celebrating its 72nd annual festival this weekend, and he couldn’t be happier.
“That’s a number we are very proud of,” he said. “And it’s held in the same place, Columbus Park, for every one of them.”
A cherished tradition at the festival each year is the Sunday procession, featuring the carrying of the statue of the Blessed Mother through the Columbus Park area.
“Mount Carmel is the only parish in southeastern Wisconsin — and probably the whole state for that matter — that still has this wonderful tradition,” Rizzo said.
The procession through the Columbus Park neighborhood starts at 1 p.m. in front of the church on Sunday, ending in the church with the Benediction.
Once again, Rizzo said, “the Ladies Society of Mount Carmel will be making over 900 pounds of homemade pasta and over 200 gallons of homemade sauce.”
The spaghetti dinner is 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the parish hall, 1919 54th St. (Carryouts are available.)
Besides the church’s homemade spaghetti dinner, foods available at the festival include Italian sausage, Italian beef and meatball bombers, sausage and peppers in a bowl, sausage/beef combo, pizza, mozzarella sticks, eggplant strips, homemade fried ravioli, homemade egg rolls, Italian doughnuts, hot dogs, hamburgers, cheese curds, pretzels, nachos, corn on the cob and french fries. Sweets include cream puffs, cannoli, tiramisu, gelato, Italian lemon ice, spumoni ice cream and other Italian dessert items, such as homemade genetti cookies and taralli (described on recipe websites as “a cross between a pretzel, a cookie and a biscuit.”)
“You want to get in line early for the famous egg rolls and the Italian doughnuts — no other parish comes close to those two homemade items,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo says he “takes great pride in the choice of music acts that Mount Carmel puts on stage. I make sure I thoroughly research our acts to make sure they are the standard that I want to represent Mount Carmel. Not only are these bands outstanding in their musical talents but are all family friendly.”
The festival’s music starts Friday with Boys & Toys, making its Mount Carmel Festival debut from 6 to 7:30 p.m
“Their energy on stage is great,” Rizzo said of the “classic rockers from hometown Kenosha. We are thrilled to have them join us.”
Headlining Friday night, from 8:30 to 11 p.m., is Serendipity, a five-piece, all-female band from the Chicago area.
The band — making its fifth appearance at the festival — “has quickly become a Mount Carmel favorite,” Rizzo said. “There is nothing these ladies can’t sing. Do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and find their rendition of ‘Shallow’ from ‘A Star Is Born.’ It’s amazing.”
Saturday’s music starts with what Rizzo calls “an old favorite of Kenosha, The Chevelles, leading us off from 5 to 7 p.m.”
“All of these guys have performed with other bands over the years at our festival,” he added, “but to have the original guys all back together and perform for us is a real treat.”
Closing out Saturday’s music is Tailspin, performing 8 to 11 p.m. The band features “a number of members of the late great Real Deal band,” Rizzo said. “These folks need no introduction if you’ve heard any music at all in Kenosha over the years.”
Closing out the festival on Sunday is “The Dean & Frank Show” (as in Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra), featuring Tony Ocean as Dean Martin and Bill Serritella as Frank Sinatra. They perform from 3 to 5 p.m.
Finally, the Beatles band Shout — billed as “the best Beatles tribute band in Michigan” — wraps up the festival Sunday, on stage from 6 to 9 p.m.
Children’s games are open all three days. There will also be inflatables on Saturday and Sunday.
The raffle’s grand prize — $10,000 — will be drawn Sunday night at 9:45. Other games include the Italian Paddle Game and Chuck-O-Luck, along with a booth selling Italian items.
About the raffle, Rizzo says, “Fourth place — which people joke about in a very serious way that they would prefer to win most of all — is a wheelbarrow filled with Italian foods and beverages donated by Tenuta’s Deli.”