June 30, 2015

A Look at the 2015 Sons of San Paolino Children's Giglio Lift in Franklin Square, Long Island

San Paolino's children carry forward our traditions
Photos courtesy of Bobby Maida
Our friend Bobby Maida was kind enough to share with us his pictures of the 2015 Sons of San Paolino Children’s Gilio lift (Friday, June 26th). We love all of our feasts and cultural events, but there is always something extra special when they are focused on our youth. To see the enthusiasm of these kids while they actively participate in our traditions lifts my spirits and makes me very proud. 
For more of Bobby’s wonderful pictures visit www.bobseventphotos.shutterfly.com
The lifters show their enthusiasm
These eager young ladies are ready to lift
Dancing the giglio
(Above and below) Beautiful families on a beautiful day
(Above and below) Proud young Capos
The Sons of San Paolino di Nola did a great job
(Above and below) The celebration carried on into the night
Our light in the darkness

June 28, 2015

Photo of the Week: Detail of Bronze Door at the Abbey of Monte Cassino (2)

Embossed panel on bronze door at the Abbey of Monte Cassino 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

June 25, 2015

A Look at the 2015 Festa di San Pio da Pietrelcina in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Viva San Pio!
Photo by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
Despite the threat of bad weather, hundreds of parishioners packed into Saint Dominic’s Church in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn Saturday (June 20th) to celebrate the Festa di San Pio da Pietrelcina. In fact, so many people showed up that the room divider needed to be opened and extra seats set up in the gymnasium to accommodate the overflow. Luckily, the kind ladies of the church choir invited me to sit with them, giving me the best seat in the house to enjoy the beautiful music of soprano Briana Weiner and organists Mary Carmosino.
After Mass we fêted Padre Pio with a procession through the neighborhood. Accompanied by Michael Aromando and the Metropolitan Festival Band, devotees sang a prayed for nearly two hours undeterred by the drizzle and mist. Before returning to church, we briefly stopped outside the Caduti Superga Mola Soccer Club on 20th Avenue for the benediction and a few more songs.
Back at St. Dominic’s, the statue was returned with great fanfare to its place of honor in the church vestibule. Before leaving, I purchased a few more prayer cards for my loved ones and lit a few candles for my ancestors.
I want to thank President Vito Liotine, Giovanni Verna, Lucrezia Nardulli Marangelli, and all the members of Caduti Superga for their hard work and dedication. It was an honor and a privilege to celebrate our faith and culture with you. Viva San Pio!
Our friends at St. Dominic's had a large selection of religious gift items 
Padre Pio is brought out to the expectant crowd
Devotees pin money on to the cape
It started to drizzle just as we got started
The procession wends its way through the mist
Lucrezia Nardulli Marangelli, President Vito Liotine and Giovanni Verna
Michael Aromando and the Metropolitan Festival Band
The procession saunters down 20th Avenue
We briefly stopped at the Cadutti Superga Soccer Club for the benediction
Back at the church, the ladies sang one last hymn for Padre Pio
Votive candles are lit inside the church vestibule

June 22, 2015

Celebrating Faith, Family and Culture: An Interview With Domenic Varuzza

Lieutenant Domenic Varuzza (tan shirt) poses with pals Anthony Rainone, Tommy and Paul Lattenzio, and his father, Anthony at the 2013 feast
By Giovanni di Napoli
Today we are honored to interview Mr. Domenic Varuzza. I first met Dom years ago during the lifting of the giglio at the Feast of San Paolino di Nola in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was immediately impressed by the young man’s character and his passion for his cultural traditions. Recognizing his leadership skills, the Board of Directors of the Feast promoted Dom to Lieutenant in 2013. He is also very active in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and other Italian American societies, including the San Cono Society and Brooklyn Giglio Boys Club. Dom has always been friendly and helpful, explaining to me the details of the events and taking me behind the scenes while the giglio was being built. Thanks to him I participated in my first lift, and it was an experience I will never forget.
In 2000, at the age of ten, Dom was a Kid's
Capo during the Children's Giglio celebration
How did you become involved in the feasts?
I guess it’s the cliché answer, but I was born into the feast like most involved. My father grew up in Williamsburg and went to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, he's been a lifter since the early 1970s, and his passion for it carried over to me. For as long as I can remember, my life revolved around it, and nothing excited me more as a kid. I always wanted to be more involved and from the first time I stepped under the kids’ giglio, I didn't want to come out.  
Dom and his father lifting in the Bronx
We sincerely appreciate your efforts to carry on the traditions of our people. Can you tell us why you do it?
It really comes down to passion and culture, something that tends to get lost in the shuffle as generations pass. In my opinion, Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the last surviving Italian neighborhood left in New York City. We have Italians of all ages and generations still living here, raising families and running businesses, and to me that’s all because of the feast and our parish. Without the giglio, there’s no feast and without the feast, the doors of our church wouldn't be able to stay open. I personally feel responsible for keeping that tradition alive and to make sure we don't lose our Italian culture. I had an extremely close relationship with my nonno, and was raised in a traditional Italian speaking family, its something I don't want to lose, and even more important to be able to pass that down to my children and future generations.  
Through the years (2010-2012): Dom always carries the left rear of the giglio
What does it feel like to participate in the lifting of the giglio and how has your role as a Lieutenant changed this?
If you love the tradition like I do, there’s nothing like it. I can speak for many, from the minute you hear the first note from the Giglio Band, your heart starts racing and goose bumps pop up on your arms. Especially when you get to share it with friends and family under there with you, you just feel a part of something special. Being a lieutenant changes a lot because you have much more responsibility, and it could be stressful. You're responsible for organizing the men before the feast; a lieutenant is in charge of approximately 40 men. The safety of the lifters is in your hands as well as the thousands in the crowd. A misconception is that it’s the capos that turn the giglio or boat, but in reality it’s the four lieutenants working together on turns, guiding the giglio between stands and crowds of people. There’s a lot of subtle things a good lieutenant should know, such as which way to pivot the giglio, what parts of the street are more narrow, how to situate your strongest lifters, and make sure you tell your lifters before each lift what the plan is, so nobody gets hurt by anything unexpected.  
Dom and his father in Nola, Province of Naples, 2005
You also lifted the giglio in Nola; can you tell us how that came about and what was it like?
Nothing is like Nola, and I can’t explain that enough. The passion, culture, history and pure joy that consumes the town of Nola in June is unrivaled by anything. I always say if you go to Nola, and aren't overcome by the spectacle and beauty of the feast and gigli, you don't belong near a giglio. It’s like being a baseball player and you think Fenway or Wrigley are just another ballpark. Lifting in Nola was the greatest experience of my life, it’s like a well-oiled machine; every guy knows what he's doing, everybody lifts the correct way, to the Nolani it is their world. They embraced me and took it as an honor that I wanted to be a part of their festa. Several members of the giglio community in America have developed relationships with the giglio boys in Nola and more specifically the paranza Fantastic Team; they welcome us with open arms each year. Its something I wish I could do every year, and have been fortunate enough to do twice.  
The giglio celebration is all about faith, family and community
What can we expect from this year’s Feast? 
Well this year’s feast is the 128th feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and 112th year lifting the giglio in Brooklyn. A lot of people in the neighborhood are excited about this years feast because we have a beloved neighborhood and parish man as our number 1 capo, Paul "Bo" Pennolino. His son Anthony is actually a lieutenant as well, so it is another example of family and feast traditions being passed on. The Turk of this years feast also has some significance, Joey Aragona is our Turk, and is one of the few members of our feast and neighborhood whose family descends directly from Nola. The thing I love about our feast is that it has become a tourist attraction as well, Williamsburg has become a weekend destination for many across NYC, and the more people that get to experience and witness our great tradition, the better it is.  
Lt. Dom in action: Directing the paranza (lifters) during the 2014 feast 
What was the motivation behind the Columbus Day Giglio with the Brooklyn Giglio Boys Club?
The Columbus Day Giglio started in 2012 with a group of neighborhood teenagers wanting to build a small giglio for fun to dance in the street. For most in Williamsburg, the feast isn't just a July thing, we eat, breathe and live the feast 365 days a year. "O Giglio e Paradiso" which is the Brooklyn giglio song, is the lifeblood and anthem of our neighborhood. When the guys from the Giglio Boys social club heard about it, they offered help and said to do it on Columbus Day during their party honoring our day of Italian heritage. The Giglio Boys are a social club that has been around for 20 years. It was started by the Nunziata brothers, whose passion and love for the giglio tradition and neighborhood has greatly contributed to expanding what we do in Williamsburg. A couple hundred people turned out for the first giglio in support of our neighborhood youth.  Since then, the giglio and crowd have grown in size, and in 2014 we had 3 pieces of the face from the Beccaio Fantastic Team giglio from Nola, it was about 40 feet tall with the San Paolino on top. It has been a great experience because it involves the youth of Williamsburg, as it teaches them how to build and dance the giglio the right way, which is something they're going to have to learn and want to be a part of if we hope to carry the traditions that were passed down to us.  
Dom (far right) with friends during the 2012 giglio in the Bronx
Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. Any last thoughts?
Come to Giglio Sunday on July 12th, I promise there is no Italian Feast like it in America. And if you don't prefer the hot sun, we lift the giglio at night on Wednesday July 15th. If anybody wants to be involved or learn more about our feast and the giglio tradition, just find us on Facebook @olmcfeast or olmcfeast.com. There’s nothing we love more than sharing our tradition with those eager to discover more. Buona Festa a tutti!
Neighborhood banner congratulating Dom's promotion to Lieutenant

Photo of the Week: Marble fragment at the Abbey of Monte Cassino

Marble fragment with fanciful lion at the Abbey of Monte Cassino 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo

June 20, 2015

A Look at the 2015 Festa di San Vito Martire in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Viva San Vito!
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
Last Sunday (June 14th), my friends and I made our way to the Congrega San Vito di Ciminna clubhouse (7712 18th Ave.) in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for the Festa di San Vito Martire. Blessed with beautiful weather, the procession wended its way through the neighborhood to Saint Dominic's Church. Before celebrating Mass in Italian with Father Martino, we listened to a short speech by young Maria Gambino about the life and martyrdom of San Vito.
After Mass, the celebration continued back at the clubhouse, where we enjoyed good company and a fantastic Barbecue. The evening concluded with caffè, dessert and an exciting raffle drawing. 
I want to thank President Dom Quartara and all the members of the Congrega San Vito di Ciminna for their warmth and hospitality. As always, we had a terrific time and look forward to celebrating with you again next year. Viva San Vito!
Leaving the clubhouse
The procession makes its way down 18th Avenue 
(Above and below) Getting the youth involved 
Young participants carry the flags 
Our friends Enza and Robert from the St. Francis College Italian American Historical Society show their support 
The Giglio Band
Rosario leads the procession into St. Dominic's Church
Departing St. Dominic's 
Posing for a group picture outside the church
Outside the clubhouse, someone sets off fireworks 
(Above and below) At the end of the evening, the silver halo
and cross are removed for safe keeping