Italian-American of the Year Honored Posthumously at Annual Festival Dinner


Hundreds gathered on Wednesday night to celebrate the 34th annual Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival. 

The annual dinner was celebrated at the McLure Hotel in Downtown Wheeling. Patrons and supporters enjoyed live music, food, drinks and good conversation. 

The Italian-American of the year was honored, as well. Joe Ripoly was born and raised in Bellaire and lived his life to the fullest. He worked in Hollywood in his early 20’s after serving our country, and had many amazing stories to share about icons like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. 

Joe passed away in May, but his whole family, including his granddaughter Jessica were there to accept his award and give a speech on his behalf. 

“He basically every year he considered himself the Italian of the year so it’s finally, it’s finally happening,” Jessica said. “Bocce was every night in the summertime we were out there with a tape measure and everything. He taught me how to cook he taught me the good music, so everything I learned I learned from him.”

Jessica said the award is exciting, but it is an emotional time for their family.

The Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival kicks off on Friday with a ribbon cutting at noon, and will run through Sunday at Heritage Port. 

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