News Column

A buon finale to Fiesta

June 30, 2014

By Arianna MacNeill, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.

June 30--The mood was serious, the atmosphere quiet over St. Peter's Square Sunday morning, when the outdoor Mass took center stage at the 87th St. Peter's Fiesta.

But just minutes after its completion rose the day's first chants of "Viva San Pietro" -- and the grand finale to Gloucester's five-day celebration of the fishing industry and its patron saint was underway.

As if on cue, the carnival rides began to turn again, one could smell the fried dough and other carnival treats cooking -- and the Procession of St. Peter began, with bearers hoisting the statue of St. Peter onto their shoulders and carrying it and those of other religious figures through the heart of the city.

The finale of the five-day festival featured Fiesta's unique sports events -- the final seine boat races and the walk down the Greasy Pole -- and the altar/stage would host one final go-around of entertainment, from the traditional Sunday afternoon concert by the U.S. Navy Northeast Band to Sunday's performance by Natalie Pinto and the band Panorama.

But the Sunday centerpieces were once again the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony and especially the procession, which drew crowds throughout its route along Washington and Prospect streets and back to the Fiesta grounds.

Backed by St. Alfio's Band of Lawrence, which also performed on stage Sunday, the inanimate version of St. Peter began to make its way on the backs of the men up Washington Street amid more jovial shouts of "Viva San Pietro!"

Just ahead of the statue, but just behind the city police escort -- some officers using what appeared to be all-terrain vehicles -- walked Mayor Carolyn Kirk.

Kirk, dressed in all white as is traditional for the Fiesta procession, said the procession is her favorite part of the five-day celebration, and she hailed the 2014 edition of it.

"It's been one of our best," said the mayor. "We have reclaimed Fiesta for the families and children."

Kirk said the festival had not been hit with high levels of the activities that have clouded it in past -- arrests, night disturbances and difficulties with crowd control. She added that city police had been monitoring the event carefully since its Wednesday start.

The Rev. James Achadinha, pastor of the collaborative linking Holy Family and Our Lady of Good Voyage parishes, walked in the parade alongside his fellow clergy members, including Bishop Arthur Kennedy of the Archdiocese of Boston.

As a recent addition to Gloucester churches and transplant to Cape Ann, Achadinha, who prefers to be called Father Jim, was enjoying his first St. Peter's Fiesta. As he waved and greeted those in the crowd, Achadinha said events like Fiesta help to infuse Christianity into the community and may reach those who need some guidance in their religious faith.

"It's been incredible," Achadinha said, adding that it was great to see people come out to celebrate St. Peter, one of Christ's original 12 apostles who was instrumental in laying the groundwork for modern Christianity. "It's been uplifting."

While the parade made its way up Washington Street, those carrying the statue of St. Peter -- whose foreheads were sweating with the effort -- made multiple stops along the route.

One of the longer stops was in front of Mother of Grace Club, where dollar bills and those of greater value were stuck to the statue. While St. Alfio's Band played quieter music, white and blue confetti was thrown toward the statue from the club's second-floor window.

Outside stood Grace Cianciolo and her brother, Joe. The two are siblings to Katie Fontano, who owns the club, established in 1944 as a gathering place for fishermen's wives to pray for their husbands' safe returns from sea.

Grace Cianciolo, a Gloucester native, said that although she has since moved to Orange, Connecticut, she returns every year to celebrate Fiesta with her family.

Having grown up directly across the street from the club, Cianciolo said she hopes Fiesta is something that will continue on for years to come -- that the "kids will pick it up for the older generation."

"We just love it," she said.

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-675-2710 or at Follow her on Twitter at @GDTArianna.


(c)2014 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.)

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Source: Gloucester Daily Times (MA)

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