WHEELING, W. Va. (WTRF) – The Undo’s Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival is known for its food and music. But there are also scholarships to college-bound students and the naming of the annual Italian-American of the Year.
This year, that honor goes to Dewey Guida, owner and operator of Dee Jay’s Barbecue Ribs and Grill in Weirton. “I’m just very humbled by it,” said Guida. “And the first thing I saw in my mind was my grandmother.”
Guida says his grandparents came to America from Italy. “They came with no money,” Guida said. “They came with the shirts on their backs. But they had the American dream.”
He says the Italian heritage involved hard work, family, gathering together, good food and hospitality—the perfect foundation for his career in the restaurant business.
“Every day was a party,” he recalled. “My family would welcome people into their homes. I’ll never forget, my mother, even at midnight when I’d come home with my friends, she’d wake up, put on her apron and start cooking for us.”
It blessed him with a philosophy that has served him well in his restaurant.
“My goal was that everybody who came into my restaurant would leave happy,” he said.
The festival awards $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors from six counties to the college of their choice every year. “360 students have done this,” noted Bob Triveri, festival board member. “They’ve each received a thousand dollars. Over the course of the years, we’ve given out $300,000 in scholarship money.”
Triveri, a teacher for 41 years, believes education is the foundation for success.
“We need to educate our young,” said Triveri. “They are our future. That sounds cliché but they are our future. And I want them to work. I want them to pay into Social Security because I get it now!”
The six counties where the eligible students live are Ohio, Brooke, Marshall, Hancock, Belmont and Jefferson.