Thousands are expected for Italian Festival at Shore

Staff Writer

Spring Lake may be known as the “Irish Riviera,” but on one day each year the downtown is transformed into an Italian piazza with food, music and retailers.

The Greater Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce will present the fifth annual Italian Festival on Oct. 12 from noon to 5 p.m. along Third and Morris avenues.

“The whole thing is Italian — think Italian, eat Italian,” said Ellen Manger, the chamber’s executive director. “We are trying to transform the whole town. We want people to stroll, shop and enjoy our Italian day.” A dozen local restaurants will serve Italian food al fresco during the festival, and patrons can sit on benches and chairs in the small piazza.

Retailers in the downtown district will offer Italian products and specialties.

A wine-tasting event will run from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Bottle Shop on Third Avenue. An art walk will highlight the works of 25 artists who were selected through an application process.

Visitors can purchase tickets to attend the after-party at the Spring Lake Fire Company No. 1 on Fifth Avenue from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

For the younger crowd, a children’s coliseum will feature activities including face painting, balloon twisting and pony rides.

A mobile video-game truck will be onsite for some of the older children.

“This is a family fun food day,” Manger said. “It has something for all ages.”

According to Manger, Spring Lake is known in part for having a large Irish population and for years focused on its Irish festival, but five years ago that changed.

“We noticed that we have a very substantial Italian population, so although we were focused on an Irish festival, our Italian residents said, ‘How about an Italian festival?’ ” Manger said.

The Italian festival began as a small fair with a few hundred people, but as larger crowds began to attend, more restaurant and business operators signed on to participate.

Manger said organizers expect more than 10,000 people to attend this year’s Italian Festival.

“We began five years ago as a street fair and it has become more and more popular each year,” she said. “Now we are here in our fifth year with all the Italian and Irish residents enjoying it together.”

The 2013 Italian festival is being sponsored by Verizon, which will be represented at the event. For more information, visit the website or call 732- 449-0577.