Crowning of Re and Regina, music and Grape stomping highlight Media Dinner



Royal Festival Court Pictured are members of the Queen of Grapes’ Court of Princesses and Junior Princesses along with this year’s Festival Royalty at the Media Dinner Saturday evening. Seated from left are Queen of Grapes Hannah Helt, Regina Kathy Walls and Re Bob Walls. Standing are Princesses and Junior Princesses Jordan Smith, Emily Helt, Izzy Cottrell, Ireland Nickle, Bailey Dowdy, Ary Magee, Elisabeth Helt, Jaryn Boyles, Karina Mendoza-McIntyre and Hayley Garver. See story. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Smith)

Royal Festival Court Pictured are members of the Queen of Grapes’ Court of Princesses and Junior Princesses along with this year’s Festival Royalty at the Media Dinner Saturday evening. Seated from left are Queen of Grapes Hannah Helt, Regina Kathy Walls and Re Bob Walls. Standing are Princesses and Junior Princesses Jordan Smith, Emily Helt, Izzy Cottrell, Ireland Nickle, Bailey Dowdy, Ary Magee, Elisabeth Helt, Jaryn Boyles, Karina Mendoza-McIntyre and Hayley Garver. See story. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Smith)

The official kick-off to the 2023 Little Italy Festival was held Saturday night as the LIFT Board hosted the annual Media Dinner at the Wine Garden on North Ninth Street.

The Media Dinner has, for many years, served as the traditional opening of the festival, with local media in attendance – giving them an opportunity to enjoy some Italian food and drink, music, and other festivities much like those that people would experience at the festival – and to witness the official crowning of the new Re and Regina with two weeks to go before the Labor Day Weekend festival begins in Clinton.

Following a social time with appetizers of salami, cheese and fruit, media and guests were treated to an Italian dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread and drinks, with Italian cream cake for dessert.

Guests included LIFT board members, present and past royalty, the family of the new Re and Regina and media guests. Again this year, rather than guests standing in a serving line for their dinner, the meal was served “family style” – brought to the tables by the court of Grape Princesses and Junior Princesses, who are always among the busiest people at any festival event, and who always represent the Clinton area and the festival well.

Royal Coronation One of the traditions of the Little Italy Festival Media Dinner is the official crowning of the new Re and Regina. Shown from left, just after passing on the crown and scepter are, 2022 Re and Regina Dave and Rae Marietta, and newly crowned 2023 Re and Regina Kathy and Bob Walls. See story. (Photo by Eric L. Jones)

Royal Coronation One of the traditions of the Little Italy Festival Media Dinner is the official crowning of the new Re and Regina. Shown from left, just after passing on the crown and scepter are, 2022 Re and Regina Dave and Rae Marietta, and newly crowned 2023 Re and Regina Kathy and Bob Walls. See story. (Photo by Eric L. Jones)

Music was provided once again by the Clinton Reunion Band – George Vrzina, Pete Carrera, Mike and Sonny Myers, Ramon Colombo and Jerry Hawkins – with some in attendance dancing during the time before the meal was served.

Following dinner, the Italian Singers gave those present another taste of the festival by performing five songs in Italian. They had the audience clapping along, or singing along in some cases, and were joined for their performance by Queen of Grapes Hannah Helt. The performance included a duet by Anna Marie Hollowell and Graham Blue, singing “The Prayer” in English and Italian, before concluding with what has become the group’s signature piece, the “Tic Toc Polka.”

First Grape Stompers The Media Dinner also features the first official grape stomping event of the Little Italy Festival. Shown kicking things off are Queen of Grapes Hannah Helt and her father, Jonathan (left photo) and Re and Regina Bob and Kathy Walls (right photo). See story. (Photos by Eric L. Jones and Ethan J. Jones)

First Grape Stompers The Media Dinner also features the first official grape stomping event of the Little Italy Festival. Shown kicking things off are Queen of Grapes Hannah Helt and her father, Jonathan (left photo) and Re and Regina Bob and Kathy Walls (right photo). See story. (Photos by Eric L. Jones and Ethan J. Jones)

One of the traditions of the media dinner is the coronation of the new Re and Regina. Outgoing 2022 Re and Regina Dave and Rae Marietta passed on the crown and scepter to 2023’s royal couple, Bob and Kathy walls.

“It was an honor to represent our heritage, both of us with Italian backgrounds,” Dave Marietta said. “I would love to see our new Re and Regina have the same amount of fun we had.”

“Thank you all for even asking us,” Regina Kathy Walls said. “It is an honor. We just hope everyone has a great time. We’re looking forward to being with Hannah. We’d like to see everyone have a good time.”

“I hope to have a wonderful and great time,” Re Bob Walls said. “We hope to see you all there!”

Queen of Grapes Hannah Helt was also introduced, along with her Princesses and Junior Princesses who were in attendance. LIFT Board Member Jennifer Smith, who coordinates the Princesses’ activities during the festival and has earned the unofficial title of “Princess Wrangler,” introduced the Princesses and Junior Princesses and talked a little about all the activities in which they participate during the festival.

 

 

Princesses and Junior Princesses present at the Media Dinner included Emily Helt, Corinna Moore, Elisabeth Helt, Jaryn Boyles, Ary Magee, Hayley Garver, Jordan Smith, Bailey Dowdy, Karina Mendoza McIntyre, Izzy Cottrell and Ireland Nickle.

“I’m so excited, Queen Hannah said. “I can’t wait to see you all at the Festival.”

Following the coronation, the wine barrel was opened for the first grape stomping of the year, under the direction of Wine Master Paul Foltz, assisted by Ethan Jones.

Again, in keeping with festival tradition, the first into the barrel were the newly crowned Re and Regina, as well as Queen Hannah and her father, Jonathan Helt. Hannah’s sister, Elisabeth, then joined her, and several of the Queens and Princesses took a turn, as well, along with other family members and guests at the dinner.

Foltz, as Wine Master, offered some instruction and encouragement to those stomping, as well as asking those in the barrel for their impression of the grape stomping experience, keeping up a festive dialogue with the grape-stompers.

Foltz has been on an ongoing quest for detailed descriptions of what stomping grapes feels like, although the most common responses he receive are “cold” and “squishy.” At one point, he “critiqued” one of the Junior Princesses’ stomping efforts, prompting her to jokingly reply “You do it then.”

Declaring “challenge accepted,” Foltz removed his shoes and joined the Princesses in the barrel himself.

More photos from the Media Dinner appear on page 7 of today’s edition of The Clintonian. Additional photos will be posted to The Clintonian’s Facebook page.