By Steven Fletcher
The men in white shirts carrying the statue of St. Peter stopped as they walked up Prospect Street, turning the statue toward Rosario Asaro and his family, and then pausing for a moment.
It's not the first time they stopped for his family, Asaro said. But it was one of the first times they stopped for him.
He and his family stood just up Prospect Street from Washington Street Sunday, and Asaro held a few photographs, one of his son John, who was in his early 50s when he died in 2009. Whereas the Sunday procession of St. Peter used to stop every year and pray for John as he battled the effects of a series of strokes prior to his passing, now, Asaro said, the prayers are for him and his family, and he's grateful for it.
"We can't thank them enough," said, who handed the statue's guardians a photo of John to place on the statue. "It brings back sorrows, but it's also happy."
Touching stops and scenes such as that were carried out several times Sunday, when the Procession of St. Peter wound its way through Gloucester's streets to culminate the 85th edition of the five-day Fiesta, the city's annual tribute to the patron saint of all fishermen, and a nod to the city's rich fishing heritage.
Sunday's finale also featured the Blessing of the Fleet off the Fishermen's Memorial on Stacy Boulevard, and the closing sports events, such as the festival's final Greasy Pole Walk and seine boat competition (see more coverage in Sports, Page 11).
But most of all, Asaro said, Fiesta is about family and tradition. It's a time, he added, to reunite with family members in town.
The procession drew throngs of residents, visitors, friends and family to the city's sidewalks to view the statues of St. Peter, Our Lady of Fatima and several other images of Mary, while frequent cries of "Viva!" rang out to celebratory blasts from confetti cannons.
Carrying on another of Fiesta's longstanding traditions, a group of children carried the oars of family fishing boats to lead the procession — and Virginia Gibney came to watch them.
Her daughter Alicia used to carry the oar of her dance instructor's family from Dawn's Dance Studio on Eastern Avenue. This was the first year, Virginia said, her 13-year-old hasn't walked — but she made it a point to turn out anyway.
"It's become a little bit of a tradition," she said.
For visitors like Laura Webster and her kids, it's a chance to see tradition in motion. Webster sat through the morning outdoor Mass on a set of blue bleachers with her son Logan and daughter Violet. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, she said she's in the area to teach a graduate music course at Gordon College this summer, and came to see one of Gloucester's iconic celebrations.
"We thought this would be a good time to see a Gloucester event," Webster said.
Gloucester's sense of tradition is also what brought Cathy Mills and her family back to Gloucester. Mills, who left to join the Air Force some 20 years ago, but is once again a Gloucester resident, said she still enjoys the energy, the people and the tradition of Fiesta.
"We've been doing this (attending Fiesta) for quite a while," Mills said.
The spirit of tradition, however, was also not lost on lifelong local residents Sunday.
Donna Favazza, watching Sunday's Mass and procession unfold, said she was in the parade as a little girl. She remembered getting so tired that her grandfather had to carry her on his shoulders — and she proudly recalled how her grandmother's linens were used to make the first St. Peter's Fiesta altar, 85 years ago.
"It's not about the carnival," she said, "(Fiesta's) about family."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.