OWASCO — Lena Misuraca has been volunteering at the St. Francis of Assisi Italian Festival, held Saturday in Owasco and presented by the SS. Mary and Martha Parish, since way back when they were first held on Underwood Street.

After all those years of hard work — like preparing the dough for pizza fritte as she was Saturday — what keeps Misuraca coming back? It's the friends, the family and all the familiar smiling faces, she said.

"That's what it's about," Misuraca said.

Held at the Owasco Fire Department grounds, the free event, which commemorates the Catholic celebration of the Assumption of Mary, welcomed dozens of guests to enjoy the food, live music, games, and each other's company.

The crowd packed shoulder-to-shoulder under a main tent — even before some intense rain — to get a chance to order some of the dishes organizing committee co-chair Sue Gatto said the festival is known for like chicken gizzards or pasta e fagioli.

Guests could also get Italian baked classics like cannoli and cookies, participate in a raffle, or enjoy the nearby splash pad.

Gatto said she and co-chair Mike Villano began preparing for the festival all the way back in January.

But all the planning in the world wouldn't mean anything without volunteers to do the work, and volunteers came in droves to come help, Gatto said.

While the festival started with St. Francis Church, Gatto said communicants of St. Hyacinth Church have been just as important, and there's a real feeling of camaraderie.

"We help one another, we are one parish," Gatto said.

Help came from outside the parish when Owasco Fire Department graciously offered their grounds, she said, and members of the department as well as town of Owasco Highway Supervisor Bob Bruno have been "instrumental" in getting the festival going.

"The Owasco Fire Department men and women have been phenomenal, we can't express it enough," Gatto said.

Money raised by the festival will help fund minor repairs at the parish offices and the former St. Hyacinth school, which is currently be used for religious education classes, according to parish Parochial Vicar the Rev. Justin Miller.

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Staff writer Ryan Franklin can be reached at (315) 282-2252 or ryan.franklin@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @RyanNYFranklin