When thinking about what to write for today’s column, I asked a friend, “what would you like to read about in the Mayor’s Desk this week?”
She said, “well, it is Fiesta weekend. Tell us what Fiesta is like from the mayor’s perspective.”
Fiesta planning begins during the winter months, and concludes with an After Action Report sometime in July.
The Fiesta Committee is very organized, and the committee and the city have our planning down pat. During the initial meeting, we review anticipated changes if any for the event, requirements for Public Works support, food inspections, support for the water sports, police coverage, emergency management, etc.
Also, Fiesta takes place at the very end of the fiscal year, so we are always watching to make sure there is enough money left in the budget to support the five-day celebration.
The Fiesta Committee takes over St. Peter’s Square a few weeks before the event, and that is the first visible sign to the community that Fiesta is coming. I bet everyone knows a child who counts the days to Fiesta by the progress that is made in hanging the banners and building the stage.
I frequently stop by during this phase and talk directly with the Committee members, and those working to build the stage, and raise the tents. I check in and ask how everything is going, are they getting the support they need, are there any changes in the plan.
This year, we have made a decision to heighten security and have higher visibility police presence. Police Chief Campanello worked with the Essex County Sheriff’s office along with the Massachusetts State Police to bring in additional resources.
As you make your way to Fiesta, this presence will be noticed, and I hope welcomed. At its heart, Fiesta is a community celebration meant for families and children, and we need to reinforce the message that it will remain a safe event for all.
Just prior to the opening, I received a report from Chief Campanello about the outcome of the background check on the approximately 100 carnival workers. This year, three workers were barred from working in Gloucester due to the background check results. As opening day arrives, like many families, I gather up my children and their friends, obtain our bracelets for unlimited rides and let them loose at the carnival but with the knowledge that we have made it as safe as possible for them to enjoy themselves.
The best parts of Fiesta have nothing to do with the carnival though. On Thursday night, there is a lovely reception with incredible seafood at the Gloucester House sponsored by the Fiesta Committee. We receive our pin and ribbons which we will wear throughout the weekend.
On Friday night, we gather in front of the St. Peter’s Club as St. Peter is taken from his spot in the window, and then hoisted through downtown streets to his place on the altar. It is always my privilege to welcome visitors and citizens on behalf of the city to our wonderful celebration. After the opening ceremonies, I make my one and only visit per year to the St. Peter’s Club.
Sunday is the most special day of all. The Outdoor Mass is so nice, and then we march along the parade route with all the participating saints including St. Peter, of course. Dressed in our Fiesta whites, it is a joyous time followed by parties and family gatherings.
More is packed into the busy Fiesta schedule, and for the mayor it is always a balance between making sure my family can enjoy Fiesta, performing official duties, and keeping a pulse on and being ready for any situation that arises from a city standpoint.
Carolyn A. Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.