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June 26, 2012

St. Peter's Fiesta poised for 85th celebration

A brand-new Greasy Pole dock welcomes a new age of challengers, the seine boats are ready to hit the water, and the outdoor altar is ready to beckon all to nightly entertainment and, ultimately, the traditional Mass of St. Peter on Sunday afternoon.

Yes, it's time for St. Peter's Fiesta, with the last night of the nine-day Novena prayer service set for tonight at 7 at the Lester Wass American Legion Hall before the full Fiesta grounds open Wednesday in St. Peters's Square.

That square — and the dock and waters off Pavilion Beach — will be the focal points of the five-day Fiesta, which dates to 1927 and celebrates and pays tribute to St. Peter, the patron saint of all fishermen, including the thousands who have sailed from Gloucester's waterfront, and continue to do so today.

The sometimes whacky five-day celebration kicks off Wednesday night with stage entertainment and a pay-once discount package for the carnival rides, brought to town again by the New Hampshire-based Fiesta Shows Inc. The rides will run for a third year on both the main Fiesta grounds in St. Peter's Square, and in the parking lot between the Birdseye building and 33 Commercial St., with the new Birdseye owner — the Beauport Gloucester LLC partnership looking to develop a hotel on the site — agreeing to a lease the lot for Fiesta's use.

One ride notably in its absence, however, will be the Ferris wheel, Fiesta Committee President Joe Novello said; Fiesta Shows is awaiting a brand-new Ferris wheel, but it hasn't arrived in time for a Gloucester visit, so the company will be offering other rides in the same space instead.

Novello said he and his committee are ready for what will be Fiesta's 85th year anchored in Gloucester's historic Fort neighborhood — even if one of the festival's classic events has a new component. The Greasy Pole Walk, Fiesta's iconic sports competition, will be run from a new, sturdier dock off Pavilion Beach after the old one, weakened by the winds and tides of Tropical Storm Irene last August, tipped over altogether under renewed weather pressure a few weeks later.

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