When the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce announced it would no longer co-sponsor the city’s annual Italian Festival, there was much uncertainty about how the Sons of Italy would celebrate Italian Heritage Month in October.
While the festival will not be held this year because the chamber bowed out for financial reasons, the annual Miss Italy Pageant will continue to happen.
“We’ve never needed money from the chamber to put the pageant on,” said Rick Picone, president of The Sons of Italy lodge on Washington Street. “This is something that we’ve always done and will continue to do.”
The pageant, which is sponsored by Haverhill and Pentucket banks, will be at The Sons Of Italy Lodge on Oct. 27.
“We wouldn’t be able to put it on without the support of the banks,” Picone said.
The pageant is for women of Italian descent in the Greater Haverhill area who are between the ages 16 and 25. The winner of last year’s pageant was Lindsay DiBurro, then a senior at Haverhill High School.
The pageant has been one of the highlights of the city’s North of the North End Italian Festival. During the competition, contestants walked on a stage in their evening gowns and answered randomly picked questions.
Another staple of the Italian Festival was the annual Spaghetti Sauce Challenge, where individuals would enter their homemade sauces and see how they stacked up against other local cooks.
There will be no spaghetti sauce challenge this year, but instead The Sons of Italy will hold a pasta fagioli contest before the pageant.
“Pasta fagioli is to the Italian community as clam chowder is to New Englanders,” Picone said.
While Picone is pleased there will still be ways to celebrate Italian Heritage Month this year, he can’t help but feel a void with the absence of the festival.
“It leaves a little bit of a hole,” he said. “It was something great that we started and it didn’t require any city money or departments. The chamber had to pick and choose what they wanted because of financial reasons. We understand that but it leaves a little bit of a hole.”
In addition to the Miss Italy Pageant, there will also be a Little Miss Italy Pageant with participants between the ages of 6 and 12. Haverhill and Pentucket bank will donate money for college scholarships.
The pasta fagioli contest will start at 11 a.m. on Oct. 27, followed by the Miss Italy Pageant at 2 p.m. Tickets will be $5.