The Italian-American fishing community of Gloucester, Massachusetts has sponsored an annual festival to honor the patron saint of fishermen, St. Peter, since the early 1900s. The Italian section of Gloucester will be decorated with colored lights, fifty archways, flowers, and a life-size statue of St. Peter from Wednesday, June 22nd through Sunday, June 26th. There will be five days of live musical entertainment and sporting competitions, including the famed Greasy Pole Contest and the Seine Boat Races.
Festivities begin Wednesday evening, the 22nd, with live musical entertainment in St. Peter’s Park (there will be live entertainment every night of the festival). There’ll be a 5K race and a youth 3 on 3 basketball tournament Thursday night, and the formal opening of the festival takes place Friday evening. Saturday is Family Activity Day with children’s games. The greased pole and boat race competitions will be held Friday through Sunday. 12-man crews compete in the grueling mile-long boat races.
It all culminates on Sunday with the outdoor celebration of mass at the Altar at St. Peter’s Square at 10 a.m., followed by a religious procession through the streets of Gloucester, featuring floats, bands, and statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Peter. The procession concludes by heading towards the ocean, where the fishing fleet, about 100 strong, is gathered, to be blessed (“all these ships and those who sail thereon”) by the Cardinal. The actual Blessing of the Fleet takes place at 3 p.m.
There’s a concert Sunday afternoon by the U.S. Navy Band, and a children’s pinata contest early that evening. Awards will be handed out for the sporting events in a ceremony, and the raffle drawings will take place Sunday night, which will conclude with the closing procession. The five days are a slice of American life everyone should experience at least once in their lives. For more info see the festival website.