BELLEVILLE, NJ- The fifth annual George Zanfini Memorial Scholarship Fund Dinner will once again be held on Thanksgiving Eve, at the Chandelier, in Belleville.
This year, that's Nov. 27, with the theme of the night once again focusing on the storied Belleville-Nutley football rivalry. The dinner will be honoring the 1979 Belleville High football team, on the 40th anniversary of the team's appearance in the state playoffs.
The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m., according to Phil Agosta, who has been overseeing the event for many years now and has worked hard to keep the evening' festivities alive and thriving.
"Our focus has always been on the Belleville-Nutley football rivalry," said Agosta, himself a Belleville High graduate and current resident of Nutley. "The dinner has had many formats, and has always been held on Thanksgiving Eve."
Agosta noted that The Fiorente Club hosted it, for many years.
"When the Belleville-Nutley game was played on the Columbus Day weekend, the dinner looked back on that year’s game," recalled Agosta. "In 1984, the game was moved to Thanksgiving Day. The dinner, on the night before, had extra significance as former Belleville and Nutley players would reminisce, and the current coaches would speak on the game’s importance (on the following day)."
In 2012, the rivalry was moved from Thanksgiving to early September. The series was discontinued following the 2015 season, but the teams did play in an exciting NJSIAA Cross-Over game in 2018, which Nutley won, 20-13.
Beginning in 2020, the schools will once again meet on the gridiron during the regular season.
In 2015, the dinner was named in memory of Zanfini, who died suddenly on Aug. 19, 2015, at the age of 72. Zanfini was a long-time educator in the Belleville school system and a Hall of Fame baseball coach at BHS. The varsity baseball complex was named after him in 2008, in a stirring ceremony which Zanfini attended.
Zanfini, who also coached freshman football at Belleville, was a popular figure at the-then Fiorente dinner, and never missed the event.
“We started a scholarship fund in George’s name, which benefits students from Nutley and Belleville High,” said Agosta. “Mr. Zanfini was a teacher and coach at Belleville for 40 years. He always loved this dinner and was a regular on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
"This year's dinner will honor the 40th Anniversary of the 1979 Belleville High football team, and their amazing year with ended up with a playoff game at Giants Stadium. There will be some other tributes, and dedications during the course of the evening as well."
Tickets for the event are $50 per person, which includes a full buffet dinner, with beer, wine, soda and dessert. Tickets can be purchased on the night of the event. Full tables of 10 can be reserved in advance by contacting Agosta at 973-980-5190.
The 1979 Bucs finished 8-2 overall and earned the Belleville High football program's first-ever playoff appearance, where it faced Union High, at Giants Stadium, on Nov. 17, 1979. The Bucs lost in the game's final minute, 15-12, before a large crowd at the famous venue.