SOMERVILLE, NJ – The owners of Cheech’s Own Coffee Company at 25 Division St. are the latest to form a non-profit corporation to promote and enhance the arts and tourism in Somerset County’s evolving Downtown.

The inaugural Ville Film Fest is scheduled for Oct. 5, according to co/owner Steve Chiocchi

Ville Fest Inc. is a non-profit organization committed to establishing an annual event platform dedicated to exposing the influence of storytelling through independent film and art, according to Chiocchi.

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“Our ultimate goal is to foster a permanent home for the arts community in Somerville and surrounding areas while contributing to the growth of our esteemed downtown with thousands of festival attendees every year,” he said.

“By inviting filmmakers and artists from all over the country to join us for a weekend of celebration on Oct. 5th,  we hope to kick off the first of many successful film festivals driven by our mission,” he added.

Ville Fest Inc. will host a fundraising gala open to the public on Thursday, Aug. 8th at Village Brewing Company, located across Main Street from Cheech’s Own.

In addition to food and drink, there will be a raffle featuring prizes donated by local businesses.

Speakers at the gala will include Natalie Piniero, executive director of the Downtown Somerville Alliance and Tom Hall, executive director of the Montclair Film Festival.

Ville Fest was started by the owners of Cheech’s Own Coffee Company,  Chiocchi and partner Kyle Marino. They met in high school and together, share a passion for film.

 Growing up in Bridgewater and Somerville, both wanted to make Somerville a focal point for fine arts and tourism, according to Chiocchi.

Ville Fest Inc. joins several well-established non-profits with a focus on promoting the arts and tourism in Somerville, including the Downtown Somerville Alliance, Arts on Division, the Central Jersey Jazz Festival and the Tour of Somerville bicycle race. There are also street fairs on Main Street, the Friday night Classic Cruisers during the summer, Girls’ Night Out in May and live music on Division Street during the summer months.

Chiocchi and Marino’s vision became real when they met Barbara Vasconez, a film graduate from New York’s School of Visual Arts who has been involved in various film festivals including Tribeca, Rooftop Films, Hamptons Film Festival and the Montclair Film Festival.

 ‘It wasn’t until we met Barbara though that the Ville Film Festival went from just a concept to a reality.’ Chiocchi said. ‘She told us that if we were going to do a film festival in her own backyard, she wanted to be involved.’

As Director of Operations she has wasted no time developing a roadmap to achieve the group’s goals.

The Aug. 8 gala is designed to raise money to go towards venues, A/V and sound equipment, vendors, and accommodations, according to Chiocchi.

The gala will be a private event open to those who purchase admission through the Eventbrite listing or at the door.

 Ville Fest is offering early bird discounts that include an exclusive cocktail hour event as well as a pack of raffle tickets.

More information about the gala can be found on Eventbrite here: http://bit.ly/villefestgala. Contributions can be made on Indie Gogo here: http://bit.ly/gogovillefest.

Also, info@villefest.org or www.villefest.org

The Downtown Somerville Alliance is one of the sponsors of Ville Film Fest.

“We’re excited to help bring the film festival to Somerville,” Pineiro said. “It’s a big deal and should be a great event and we hope there will be room for growth. It certainly fits our plan to bring more art and culture to downtown Somerville.

We’ve got art shows, music, but film is something we haven’t tapped in to yet,” she added.

One thing Somerville does not have is a venue dedicated to film. Chiocchi has lined up a number of locations where there will be screenings, including United Reformed Church on Main Street; Verve Restaurant, Bar & Bistro; Project Pub, Cheech's and tentatively, the auditorium at the Middle School.

The Division Street pedestrian mall which hosts art shows, concerts and other events is also another possibility, Chiocchi said. Tents would be set up for screenings - right outside the front door of Cheech's.