The St. Peter's Fiesta History|
The St. Peter's Fiesta has long attracted visitors from all
over the country. It is an annual celebration in Gloucester, MA taking place on the weekend closest to
the Feast Day of St. Peter, June 29. The event is sponsored by the Italian-American fishing community
Starting at the turn of the century many Italian families from Sicily settled in
Gloucester. Having earned their livelihood as fishermen in the old country, they were naturally attracted
to this famous fishing port. Before long a substantial number of Italian fishermen made Gloucester their
home. As is usually the case, they continued many of the customs they had practiced in the old country.
The most important of these, paying homage to St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, proved to be
the seed that finally grew into the St. Peter's Fiesta as we know it today.
In 1927 one of the
Italian-American fishing captains, Savatore Favazza, had a life-sized statue of St. Peter enshrined in
the heart of the Italian district. Soon the fishermen and their families began to pray before this image
of their patron saint. It wasn't long before the wives and mothers of the fishermen began formulating
plans for a religious procession to be held annually on June 29 in honor of St. Peter. Gradually, this
annual procession grew to a day-long demonstration of faith to the protector of all fishermen.
1931 the women appealed to their husbands for aid in making the arrangements for the Fiesta as its scope
had been increasing to great proportions. A meeting of all the fishermen was called at which a committee
was appointed to formulate plans for the annual event. Interest was so high, it was decided to make the
observance of three days' duration. By this time people from many sections of New England were being
attracted to Gloucester to observe the festival.
In subsequent years it became clear that the
St. Peter's Fiesta was taking on two aspects. The first and foremost was the deeply religious tone of
the event. The second was the joyous atmosphere that permeates all who are present. The religious aspect
is motivated by the realization that their patron saint has protected the fishermen against the many
storms encountered at sea during the past year. The joyous aspect stems from the natural instinct of
those engaged in a hazardous occupation to enjoy a festive occasion.
The St. Peter's Fiesta of
recent years provides a varied program certain to be of interest to all. The entire Italian-American
section of Gloucester is decorated with flags, bunting, colored lights and streamers. Some fifty archways
are erected over the streets, their colored lights presenting an awe-inspiring sight when viewed at night.
An enormous altar and double bandstand several stories high form the focal point of the decorations.
The life-sized statue of St. Peter is centered on this altar, lavishly decorated with hundreds of flowers.
From the bandstand two concert bands alternate in entertaining every evening of the Fiesta.
morning is the annual open air Mass at the Alter at St. Peter's Square. Hundreds of people gather to
take part in this religious ceremony.
Following the mass is a procession composed of several bands
and floats, hundreds of men and women participants, and the statue of St. Peter carried on the shoulders
of eight fishermen.
Later in the afternoon the crowds witness the blessing of the Italian-American
fishing fleet. The fleet of almost one hundred fishing vessels, all gaily decorated with signal flags,
presents a most impressive panorama. After the Bishop blesses the fleet, the vessels' fog horns are blown.
These blasts can be heard all over Cape Ann.
Various sporting events are held each afternoon during
the procession. The Greasy Pole is a contest where brave soles run across a grease covered pole trying
to capture a flag. The other event is the Seine Boat Races. Here, twelve man crews prove their strength
and stamina by rowing against each other in old seine boats in a grueling mile long race