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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

>Italian Festival names first female marshal

The Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival has a female grand marshal for the first time in its history.

Lucia Caracci Cullens, honorary vice consul of Italy in Buffalo, will serve as gran ceremoniere -- Italian for master of ceremonies -- after 19 years of male marshals. As vice consul, Cullens represents Italy in Western New York.

"I asked my board, 'Let's think about a woman, a lady this year -- someone who was out in the community and had a lot of say,' " festival President Carmen J. Palma said. "The whole board said, 'That's a no-brainer. That's Lucia.' "

The festival runs July 12 to 15 on Hertel Avenue. Festivities run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 12 through 14 and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 15.

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>32nd Juneteenth Festival is set this weekend

The 32nd annual Juneteenth Festival kicks off at noon today with a parade that will start at the corner of Moselle and Genesee streets and proceed down Genesee into Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

A "praise and worship" service at 10 a.m. in the park is scheduled to precede the parade, after which a variety of festivities is set to take place, including entertainment at the main stage of the park. The festival also will feature numerous vendors, a food court, a health pavilion and a family portrait booth.

Other entertainments include a drill team competition, exhibition basketball, a book fair, historical exhibits and children's activities, among others. Activities will conclude at 8 p.m.

The festival will resume at 10 a.m. Sunday with another "praise and worship" before the second day of activities kicks off at noon.

Celebrated in most states and Washington, D.C., as well as in other nations, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the slaves by President Abraham Lincoln. It was launched in Buffalo in 1976 by BUILD, a community-based organization.
Initially, the festival was held in a blocked-off section of Jefferson Avenue and featured murals, ethnic food and various wares for sale, as well as entertainment. After several years, the festival outgrew the venue and was moved to Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

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>Gabryszak again pitches for St. Joseph Hospital

Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak has repeated his call for St. Joseph Hospital to remain open.

The Cheektowaga Democrat, along with hospital President James Millard, met this week with Dennis Whelan, deputy secretary for health care, presenting him with petitions with 3,000 signatures in support of the hospital.

"It doesn't make sense to close St. Joseph Hospital," Gabryszak said. "It is not in financial trouble -- it's been profitable for the past four years."

The hospital is among those the state Berger Commission has recommended for closure.

Gabryszak said he's heard from many constituents who say the hospital's proximity was vital in successful outcomes for themselves or family members.

"I am urging the governor to exempt St. Joseph Hospital from the ill-advised recommendations of the Berger Commission," Gabryszak said.

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