The 85th St. Peter's Fiesta, the nation's longest continuous religious festival and a rough-cut antipasto mixing sports, devotion, reunions, traditions and games at the original border of Gloucester with its Sicilian enclave, got its official kickoff in a picture-perfect dusk Friday night.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk welcomed the crowd at St. Peter's Park with prepared words that characterized the fiesta as dedicated with the "deepest respect for the fishermen."
Throughout the large crowd that followed the parade of the statute of St. Peter from the St. Peter's Club around the waterfront and back by members of the club was the same sense of history — that this Fiesta was of, by and for the fishermen.
Retired and active commercial fishermen Vito Calomo and Bill Muniz agreed that the event has been sustained by the "beliefs of the fishermen. "
"That's what they believe in through hard times," they said.
"We have an Italian community and a fishing community and they will go on forever," said police Lt. Joseph Aiello who was in uniform at the St. Peter's Club.
Adding to the scene of this year's festival beginning Friday night were a "Wicked Tuna" booth, and another booth focused on Caleigh Harrison and the message her April 19 disappearance drives home about child safety.
The Harrison booth toward the front of the stage was selling tickets to a raffle, while the "Wicked Tuna" booth along the boardwalk behind Latitude 43 was selling gear and featured some of the stars of the television reality series shot in Gloucester — and is now confirmed as heading for a second season, said Capt. Dave Marciano.
"As long as I've been around (Fiesta)," Marciano said, "since I was 12 or 13 and working for the Yankee Fleet, it's always been about the fishing industry. We give humble thanks for the upcoming the season."
Political leaders on hand included state Senate Minorty Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, and former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who is now challenging incumbent John Tierney for his 6th District congressional seat.
State Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante said, "Most participants (in the fishing industry) realize that you can't go it alone," adding that, during times of trials, the faith the crews have in St. Peter are sustaining.
Helping with the entertainment was Simon Zaslavsky, a violinist from Russia.
"I have lived in Italy and I love the Italian culture," said the Lynn resident as he strolled Rogers Street and played beautifully, smiling as his music wafted by mobile amplifier he carried in his pants pocket.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org.