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Grasso Festival Honors Its Namesake



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The Marching Nighthawks paid tribute to longtime Newtown High School music educator and namesake of the band and guard’s annual Joseph P. Grasso Festival at this year’s event October 16 at Blue & Gold stadium.

It was the 25th Annual Joseph P. Grasso Festival and two of Grasso’s children, Amy and Mark Grasso, attended the event.

According to the festival’s chair Laura Taylor, a moment of silence was held at the start of the event in honor of Grasso, who died at the age of 81 on October 9.

For the annual festival, the NHS Marching Band & Guard performs in exhibition while hosting other bands that compete. The event was originally scheduled to begin at 6 pm, but with anticipated rain it was moved up to begin at noon.

According to band parent Jon Miller, the Nighthawks were fired up as they performed the group’s 2021 show “Everest” before a packed stadium. Following the performance, 15 seniors in the band and guard were honored with Senior Recognitions. Seniors include Jaime Adams, Caroline Cassetta, Giovanni Compasso, R’vyn Grega-Szabo, Mia Hochstetler, Nate Hoffert, Cherysse Jean-Charles, Julia Kaiser, Evan Keckley, Lauren Pope, Kes Sargent, Michael Spanedda, Nina Srivastava, Kaylee Timmons, and Jeremy Voegeli.

The Marching Nighthawks will perform at the Friday, October 22, NHS football game and they will compete at Bunnell High School on October 23, according to Miller.

Following the festival, NHS Band Parents Corp (NHSBPC) President Dianna Pategas said, “It was absolutely amazing.”

“The kids were just so thrilled to be on their home turf,” said Pategas, “and they performed their hearts out.”

There were a lot of smiles under the mostly sunny sky, Pategas reflected, and there were a few tears, also for the memory of Chuck Taylor who chaired the Grasso Festival for the last few years.

Former NHSBPC President Laura Taylor said in a phone interview following the festival that she had planned to co-chair this year’s Joseph P. Grasso Festival with her husband, to help pass the reigns to the new chair, Dawn Roman-Weide. With her husband’s passing, Taylor said it felt like a personal tribute to Chuck also.

Both Pategas and Taylor noted that many volunteers made the festival possible.

“The school was incredible and so were the volunteers,” said Taylor, noting support from high school administration and staff.

Members of the NHS football team were also noted as being in attendance at the event, Taylor shared.

“There was a lot of spirit and comradery between the band and the football team,” said Taylor.

Overall there were roughly 110 volunteers that included current band and guard parents, alumni, alumni parents, and other community members. Sharing that she is proud of the support, Taylor said she is also proud of NHS Band Director Aaron Ovsiew and the group for its “beautiful show.”

“It was just such a community day... I’m very proud to have been involved in it and proud of the whole band and guard program and the community,” said Taylor

Overall, Pategas said the event was, “Just a happy day for Newtown.”

Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

Senior Kaylee Timmons, guard captain, performs at the home show event.
The NHS Marching Band & Guard finishes its home show performance at Blue & Gold Stadium. —Jon Miller photos
Low brass members march and play flawlessly. From left to right are Mason Miller (mellophone), Grace Snowden (euphonium), Parker Chung (trombone), and Ollie Pategas (trombone).
Band and guard parent volunteers Yolanda Hampton, left, and Rhonda Timmons check in attendees at the 25 Annual Joseph P. Grasso Festival.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 270 hold flags at the 25th Annual Joseph P. Grasso Festival. From left are Jenry Blatter, Simon Pategas, band members Ollie Pategas and Kyle Boughan, Billy Cartelli, and Cameron Linnetz.
NHS Principal Dr Kimberly Longobucco captures video of the NHS Marching Band & Guard at its home show. —Dianna Pategas photo
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