A St. Peter’s Fiesta Memoir as told by Joe Palmisano

4 06 2012

As this year’s fiesta approaches, memories of fiesta past come to mind. I think how lucky I was to grow up down the fort during the late 60’s early 70’s as a young kid. There was so much to do and so many kids growing up in one small Italian neighborhood surrounded by fishing boats in the heart of Gloucester waterfront. We were truly blessed to have so much in this tiny little place called “the fort.”

Pavilion beach, the Fort playground, close friends & family, fresh fish everyday and that one wonderful time of the year. No not Christmas but Fiesta. It all starts about 12 days before when the flat bed truck arrives from the North End of Boston with 40 to 50 red poles stacked on the back. As each kid awoke that morning in early June you would of thought it was Christmas and that Santa and his elves had arrived. No it was not Santa and his elves but the best fiesta decorators on the planet, Emilio Matarazzo & his sons. Excitement would stir in the neighborhood that morning. The first one to spot them out of our group, Peter Fronterio, Anthony Costanza, Steve Aiello , Tommy & Peter Favazza or me would be race
to each other’s houses to announce their arrival. The next 12 days our parents knew where they could find us. No not under the wharf at the town landing in ankle deep black muck looking for old bottles, not down Cape Ann fisheries fishing, or playing baseball in Mighty Mac’s parking lot or swimming at Pavilion beach. No we would be watching the Matarazzo brothers Tony, Sonny, Eddie Rudy and other family members string colorful lights up and down Commercial St.. We would carefully watch them build the alter piece by piece. After all, they were building our four-day summer wonderland. During these days Tony Matarazzo would call one of us over to go get St. Joseph sandwiches and cold drinks at Buzzy’s Bertolino for his work crew while the rest of us would be helping replace burnt out lights bulbs on the alter panels or on the strings of lights which would be hung in the streets. We didn’t get paid for doing this but at night when the crew left we would play on the alter for hours. You could say it was sort of the ultimate tradeoff that no one spoke of. Then came the rides. They would roll in one after the other, the Yo-yo Scrambler, Flying Bobs, Tilt The Whirl, the Spider, The Double Ferris wheel and of course the Sky Diver. Peter Frontiero holds the record to this day for going on it over 100 times. Fiesta was in full gear and before you knew it was Thursday night of fiesta and for the next four nights those bright lights hanging in the streets and the lights from the alter would turn the Fort nights into days. The mixed smells of grilled sausage, french fries, cotton candy & candy apples filled the night air from Main St. down to Western Ave.. Beach Court was consumed by clouds of white smoke from hundreds of bottle rockets and fire crackers going off. All the while voices of Dean Martin, Jerry Vale, Perry Como & Bobby Darin would echo throughout the streets singing Italian love songs from big round green speakers. On Saturday we eagerly awaited the pie and watermelon eating contest and then participated in the pinata breaking. Thank you, Busty Palazzola. You were the master of the kids games. When Sunday arrived, cousin Larry Biondo, Joe Scola and I would dress in our best fiesta whites to carry the St. Peter sign in the parade leading St. Peter himself through out the streets of Gloucester. As the evening closed, all my neighborhood friends & family would be part of the massive crowd that followed St Peter as he was carried around the Fort. We would all be screaming at the top of our lungs, ugi sumi tuti muti!! Viva San Padero! as fiesta would come to a close. On
Monday morning, we awoke to the sounds of the street sweepers and front end loaders scooping up mounds of trash from St.Peter’s Park. The carnival rides and workers were completely gone, disappearing quietly like gypsies in the night. The fiesta lights that were hung above Beach Court and Commercial St. were no longer there and all that was left of the alter was the stage platform. Our voices were hoarse from all the screaming. For the first time in two weeks The Fort felt empty, our four day wonderland was gone, but only for another year. How lucky was I growing up down the fort.
Bono Fiesta!

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4 responses

4 06 2012
Sharon

Thanks, Joe! Your memories
make the past come alive again!

4 06 2012
denise

LOVE THIS JOEY ~ great job ! I too beleive the special importance of St Peters Fiesta, from the offical ceremony of brining St Peter out to the Altar to the final walk around the Fort back to his home at the St Peter’s club.
Lucky are we that were able to celebrate the importance of St Peter not only
for the significance of St Peter and the safe return of our fisherman, but it is also the gathering of family and friends to share in our celebration.
Viva San Pietro !

4 06 2012
Sonya Lowe

We would like to thank YOU Joe for carrying on so many traditions for the kids.
They will all be remembering great times they had as they grow older thanks to all of your hard work putting together activities for them and making memories of their own!

6 06 2012
Tom Favazza

great job Gomba

Love you like a brother

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