While many visitors to the Columbus Italian Festival come for the food, organizers hope they leave with a greater appreciation for Italian culture.

While many visitors to the Columbus Italian Festival come for the food, organizers hope they leave with a greater appreciation for Italian culture.

In recent years, organizers have added elements to the celebration to showcase other aspects of their heritage, said Landa Masdea Brunetto, who handles publicity for the festival that takes place the weekend before Columbus Day.

"It's changed and evolved," she said. "There's much more Italian flavor - much more Italian culture."

The three-day event will offer music, traditional dancing and introductory Italian lessons. There also will be Italian cooking and winemaking demonstrations.

Children can make a spaghetti necklace and other Italian-oriented art projects. The festival also includes carnival rides and a parade, which culminates in a marching band competition.

"It's a very family-friendly festival," Masdea Brunetto said. "The Italian community is all about children."

Attendees also will enjoy touring St. John the Baptist Church, she said. The historic building has many Old World touches, she added. Early parishioners donated statues of their favorite saints and they are displayed in the church, which was dedicated in 1898.

"It's a jewel," she said of the church.

Still, the food - especially the pizza - is not to be missed, Masdea Brunetto advised. Parishioners spend a week preparing the sauce that's used on the pizza and pasta served at the festival.

"The keystone of the entire festival is the St. John's pizza that you can only taste and sample three days a year," she said.

-Melissa Kossler Dutton