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Feast of Three Saints in Lawrence Celebrates 90th Anniversary

When: August 30, 31 and September 1, 2013

Where: Common Street, Lawrence MA

In Lawrence, Labor Day weekend is much more than a holiday. In fact, for the past 90 years it has represented one of the region’s most important and successful traditions: The Feast of the Three Saints. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the feast, started in 1923 by a half dozen paesani immigrated to the area from the Sicilian town of Trecastagni, which celebrates Saints Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino in the month of May.

Feast of Three Saints (photo ©Ross Photography)

Feast of Three Saints (photo ©Ross Photography)

“I’ve never missed a feast,” says 70-year-old Ray DiFiore, who remembers his grandfather making the traditional crispelli treats for the Roma and Colonial bands gathered in the back room of the family store on Common Street. “That spirit of giving is what has kept the feast so strong,” says DiFiore. “We celebrate the saints, as well as our heritage, but we always give back to the community, be it scholarships, donations or charitable work.”

That spirit gave birth to the St. Alfio Society in 1921, as more immigrants from Italy — mostly from the Sicilian province of Catania — settled in the area, bringing their culture and traditions with them. Founded as a mutual benefit society to help community members in need, the Society made sure no one was left behind. “It was one of the first social programs in the country,” says DiFiore. “If you got ill and had no insurance, the Society would provide for you until you or your family could give the money back.”

The founders of the society also brought to life the traditional festivities dedicated to the martyred brothers Alfio, Filadelfo and Cirino, killed by the Romans on May 10, 253 A.D., because of their Christian faith. Every year, the town of Trecastagni dedicates the first half of May to celebrating the three saints, and several members from the St. Alfio Society attend the Italian festivities every year. “I’ve been to Sicily twice,” says DiFiore. “It was an extremely emotional experience.” Dignitaries from Trecastagni and other Sicilian towns honoring the three brotherly saints have participated in the Lawrence feast in the past.

Feast of Three Saints (photo ©Ross Photography)

Feast of Three Saints (photo ©Ross Photography)

This year’s three-day Festa will kick off on Friday, August 30, with society members taking part in the traditional parade through the streets of Lawrence. Festivities will continue on Saturday, with musical acts such as Giada Valenti and Tony Pace accompanying cooking demonstrations and carnival games taking place all along a vendor-packed Common Street. On Sunday morning, September 1, another parade will lead to the Church for a solemn Mass in honor of the Saints, with Cardinal Sean O’Malley marking this year’s important anniversary. As every year, the feast will then culminate with a procession of the Three Saints, starting at 3 p.m. and going through the same streets the procession has touched over the course of its long history. Six chosen members accompany the statues on the Vara, which was modeled after the one used in Sicily. The original statues come from Sicily, brought by Alfio Bonaccorsi — one of the Society’s original founders — in 1924.

“People come from all over the country to stand in front of where their families would stand years ago,” says Ray DiFiore. A dedicated café area on the corner of Common and Union streets makes for the ideal resting area, where families and friends can grab fresh crispelli just out of the sizzling hot oil, or typical Sicilian treats such as cannoli and arancini.

Tradition, music, food and fun for all… This year’s feast will be one to remember.

“Viva Sant’Alfio!”

Below is the full schedule of this year’s Feast of Three Saints:

90th Annual Celebration of the Feast of the Three Saints
Schedule of Events

Friday, August 30, 2013
City Hall: 6:30 pm
Opening Procession to Corpus Christi Parish at Holy Rosary Church.
Italian Tent: 7:30 pm
Historians Joe Bella and Richard Padova: “Lawrence’s Italian Immigrant Mill Workers”
Tripoli Stage 8:15 pm
Joe Scuderi and Russ McQueen
Tripoli Stage: 9:15 pm
Sea Breeze
Main Stage Bandstand: 8:15 pm
Gian Farrone
Main Stage Bandstand: 9:15 pm
Giada Valenti

Saturday, August 31, 2013
Italian Tent: 5:30 pm
Historians Joe Bella and Richard Padova: “The History of the St. Alfio Society”
Main Stage / Bandstand: 6:00 pm
Italian Serenaders
Feast Route: 7:30 pm
Torchlight Parade – honors the three Saints ending with fireworks and Cantata played by the St. Alfio Band
Tripoli Stage: 8:30 pm
Carmine Martino featuring Cherie Burton
Tripoli Stage: 8:30 pm
Ricco Barr & the Jump n’ Jive Review
Main Stage: 9:00 pm
Tony Pace

Sunday, September 1, 2013
Corpus Christi Parish at Holy Rosary Church: 10:00 am
Solemn Mass in honor of the Three Saints at Holy Rosary Church, Corpus Christi Parish at Holy Rosary Church 3:00 pm
Procession of the Statues of the Three Saints through the Feast neighborhood
Italian Tent: 4:00 pm
Historians Joe Bella and Richard Padova: “The History of the Holy Rosary Church building”
Walking at the Feast: 4:30-6:00 pm
Italian Serenaders
Society Building: 7:00 pm
“Moment of Glory” with Benediction and the Cantata played by the St. Alfio Band amid fireworks and showers of confetti
Tripoli Stage: 7:30 pm
Stephen Savio
Main Stage / Bandstand: 8:15 pm
John Leite Concert Winds
Drawing for the raffle tickets sold all weekend will be held at 9:45 pm
The Feast will close at 10 pm

About Nicola Orichuia

Nicola is an Italian journalist and media enthusiast living in the United States. He keeps an eye on the Italian-American communities across the country and is always looking for positive stories to highlight.

One comment

  1. I believe the correct dates for this Festival are August 29th, 30th and 31st.