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NAPLES, Italy — There is no shortage of wine festivals in Italy, especially as many regions are now entering the height of the wine harvest.

For one town in the Benevento region, just north of Naples, this week marks the beginning of an annual festival that draws visitors from around the world.

The wine fest in the town of Solopaca includes much more that just the fruit of the vine — although that is the main attraction. Local artisans, a fashion show, wine-making demonstrations and plenty of food are featured in the weeklong celebration.

The festival began Thursday and runs through Sept. 18. The biggest draw however, is the procession of floats that rivals the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Many of the floats feature movie stars, race cars, animals, athletes, cartoon characters and politicians — all skillfully created with grapes of all colors and sizes.

The parade, traditionally held the second Sunday in September, begins at 10 a.m. Sunday and runs through the curved and hilly streets of the town, ending at 1 p.m.

"I went to the festival about 10 years ago and it was like nothing I’d ever seen," said Paul Gadbois, who works for Morale, Welfare and Recreation marketing in Naples.

"I remember watching the procession of townspeople in period costumes opening the town gate to welcome people in. It was great."

To get to Solopaca from Naples, take the A1 north toward Rome and get off at the Caserta Sud exit. Follow the signs for Maddaloni. Once through Maddaloni, follow signs for Telese, and/or Solopaca. Not all exits are marked with Solopaca.

For more information on the festival, you can go to their Web site at The site is in Italian.

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