Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Save The Date: San Rocco Festa in Aliquippa

Save the dates August 8-10 San Rocco Festa in Aliquippa

"A three-day religious celebration held annually in August that includes a festival, church service, family procession, and traditional Italian Tarantella, the "baby doll dance." It honors San Rocco, born into a wealthy French family in the 14th century, who distributed his wealth among the poor, took a vow of poverty, traveled as a pilgrim to Italy and ministered to those suffering from the plague. Veneration of San Rocco exploded so rapidly after his death that today Italy has over 5000 churches and chapels named in his honor. As early as 1789, Patricia, Italy, began to honor San Rocco with festivities and civic ceremonies, including distribution of chiambella (an Italian pastry) and bread to the townspeople.

Many Patrica residents immigrated to the Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, area to work in its steel mills and, wishing to keeping their Italian heritage alive, brought this tradition with them. During its early years (1925-1955), the San Rocco Festa was a street fair that became linked with the Musical Political Italian (MPI) Club Band, which played the music of Italy at many Aliquippa civic gatherings. During the 1950s, the Festa evolved from a street fair into a structured two-day celebration held during the weekend closest to August 16, featuring band concerts by the MPI band, food, fireworks, amusements, a San Rocco Mass, the traditional "baby doll dance," and a parade/procession with floats decorated with paper flowers and men bearing aloft the San Rocco statue. The "baby doll dance" brings the festival to a close when the identity of the Taranatella dancer, sheathed in an 8-ft. tall wooden frame fashioned in the shape of a young woman, is revealed. (The Tarantella has its roots in Italian folklore, in which a young women, bitten by a poisonous spider, dances faster and faster to try to rid herself of the poison.)"

Given the fact one of my favorite things in the world was the Festa Del Giglio in Brooklyn, I kind of am guessing this is pretty amazing and a lot of fun.

Both the Festa Del Giglio in Williamsburg and Alliquippa's San Rocco Festa have provided glue to communities in times of change and have come to be reunions that bring people back to the old neighborhood. Pittsburgh Magazine has a nice story about the energy people from all over have put into keeping this tradition alive.

No comments: