One of the first things I learned about Gloucester when I moved here twenty years ago is that there is no point in making much in the way of plans for the last weekend in June—unless you plan to be gone from Thursday to Monday and who would want to do that. The last weekend in June is devoted to St. Peter and is known here as Fiesta. Gloucester is a fishing town and many of the residents here are from Sicilian backgrounds. They honor St. Peter as the patron saint of fishermen and they are very serious about their devotion to him.
|Statue of Saint Peter being carried through the streets|
|Gloucester's mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken leading a cheer for St. Peter|
After being an enthusiastic participant—and sometimes voyeur—I stopped going down to the carnival. It was filled with young people and families. It was loud and crazy and I began to be less and less enthralled by all the commotion. I liked to walk down and check out some of the hats that the Hat Ladies created—they are masterpieces of local color. The Greasy Pole walkers often show up in hilariously wild costumes and it is worth it to check those out. One year my parents came during Fiesta and I sort of think it scared them. They would venture out during the day but once it got dark and loud they were eager to be home.
|Seine boat races|
When the son of the family next door to me became old enough to walk the pole, our neighborhood got a real shot in the arm. Joe is young and cute and one of the most polite young men I've ever met. Because he was now among the Greasy Pole walkers, things got lively on this street and the parties got wilder. I was perfectly content to fix myself a gin and tonic, go out on my back porch, and listen to the fun.
|Loading up the Greasy Pole walkers|
|Walking the Greasy Pole with City Hall in the background.|
Inside the tower of City Hall written on the walls are all the names of
Gloucester fishermen who have died at sea in the 1600s
But through all the years, the thing that has stayed with me is the absolute, total and complete devotion of these people to their saint. The processions and parades remain the focal point at least for the families. No matter how drunk and wild and crazy the carnival and parties become, the devotion to Saint Peter rules everything. The cries of “Viva San Pietro” fill the streets.
|Blessing the fleet with the Thomas E. Lannon in the background|
I've written before about the European origins of these devotions. I have to remind myself that these men we see laughing and drinking and partying in the street, these men dressed like Marilyn Monroe or a pirate or a giant baby as they walk the Greasy Pole, come Monday these men will put away their costumes and go down to the docks and get on boats and they will go out to sea in search of fish. And there will be times when the fishing is poor, and the water is rough, and the waves are high and then they will count on St. Peter to help them come back home. Some will not be able to do that no matter how they pray.
|Viva San Pietro!|
So, relax, don't fight it, just enjoy. It's that time of year yet again. Viva San Pietro!
Thanks for reading.