August 27, 2012

A Look at the 2012 Festa di San Rocco in Queens

Viva San Rocco! 
By Giovanni di Napoli

This weekend, I had the great pleasure of attending The Societá Gioventú Quagliettana's Annual Festa di San Rocco at St. Rocco's Place (37-04 28th Ave) in Astoria, Queens. In my eagerness to venerate the Saint I showed up a little early, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that several people remembered me from the 2011 Fiaccolata. I was invited into the social club before the revelry and got to see the newly restored statue of the patron before it was presented to the public.
Votive candles, baskets of fruit and pasta are offered in thanks
Just like last time, the close-knit community extended a warm welcome and treated me like one of their own. There was plenty of laughs, stories and, of course, good food, which was generously donated by a local food merchant [I apologize for not getting the establishment's name, they deserve a plug]. Because there were no food stands or game booths the atmosphere was more like a block party than a street bazaar and far more intimate than your average feast. This gave me an excellent chance to mingle with some of the guests and learn more about this wonderful society. I especially loved seeing the old photographs and listening to the childhood memories of the Festa back in Quaglietta. People from as far away as Connecticut and even Italy make the trip to partake in this magnificent celebration. 
The statue emerges from the social club and is presented to the jubilant crowed
Even though I thought there was a substantial turnout I was assured that the attendance was nothing compared to year's past. Naturally, this is to be expected as neighborhoods change and people move away, but we "holdouts" need to take advantage of these opportunities and support each and every one of these events whenever possible. Despite the many similarities, each festival brings something unique and culturally significant to the table. So bring your children, have them participate and explain to them the cultural and spiritual meanings behind the rites and rituals. They'll get a small taste of the old country, an opportunity to experience their heritage firsthand and (hopefully) continue the traditions that we all love for generations to come. 

I salute the Societá Gioventú Quagliettana for a job well done and thank them for their kindness and hospitality.
Long-time society members Ersilia, Vincenza and Teresa warmly welcomed us
The festivities begin with a prayer
Tradition lives on in Astoria
The color guard were all smiles
The procession makes its way to Saint Joseph's Church for Mass
The next generation gets in on the act
Women took turns carrying le cinte, a candle headdress, on their heads
Another look at glorious Saint Rocco making his way through the neighborhood
(Above and below) A magnificent show of devotion
Photos by New York Scugnizzo