We’re less than a week away from the Annual Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival and Bob Gaudio is one man who has been synonymous with with the festival. He is finally being honored this year as the Ohio Valley’s Italian American of the Year.
“Having that one spot where you have Italian music, great Italian food, Italian wines, just in one spot, it makes people happy,” Gaudio said.
The former chairman Bob Gaudio believes the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival is the greatest neighborhood block party in the Nation.
Gaudio served on the board of directors for 12 years and was the Festival chairman for six of those years.
“It sort of takes on a life of its own and it’s a beautiful life. It’s a fun life and it’s safe and delicious. It’s a great event and it’s a wonderful thing to have been a part of for so many years,” Gaudio said.
Now after all those years in charge and involved with the Festival are being honored as Gaudio will be named the Ohio Valley’s Italian American of the Year, an honor that’s he’s quite modest about.
“I’m not even close to being anywhere near the best Italian American guy in this Valley. There’s so many wonderful, community serving, hardworking Italian Americans that deserved this award far more than I do,” Gaudio said.
Gaudio however was glad to share the title with his late father Merle who past away 5 years ago after being named Italian American of the Year in 2001. The Gaudios are now the first father-son duo to hold that honor.
“He’s still with me and I look forward to sharing with him this coming week, it’s going to be fun,” Gaudio said.
Speaking of fun, Gaudio says he’s looking forward to watching people come together and talk to their neighbors, families, and friends. There’s a few places you can expect to see him once this years festival kicks off on Friday.
“I will be spending most of my time, when I’m at the festival, at the music venues because I love music. A lot of time up in Little Italy because I love the food that they make up there, it’s homemade,” said Gaudio.
Gaudio says that no matter where you see him at this year’s festival he can assure you there will be plenty of talking since conversation is such a big part of Italian culture. Gaudio believes that is one of the many Italian traditions that have made the Festival so special in the past, present, and definitely in the future.
“Whenever you have a tradition or a custom, you’re going to keep it going pretty much the way it is. Your Christmas tree every year has to be a certain type of tree, you’re going to put certain ornaments on it. That kind of thing. Your turkey can only be made a certain way at Thanksgiving. It’s the same thing with the Festival, you can’t change it too much or it will become something else so it will remain the Italian Festival that everybody loves,” Gaudio said.
Don’t be surprised if you see him on stage at this year’s festival, playing his guitar. He says several bands have tried to get him to perform this year and he’s thinking about making a couple of guest performances. The 2014 Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival kicks off Friday at Heritage Port.