Danny Sanfilippo joined the men of his family, most of them without shoes, and hoisted onto his shoulder an image of Maria SS. Del Lume, the patron saint of Porticello, Sicily.
Sanfilippo said carrying the Del Lume image, the patron saint of his family's hometown across the sea, barefoot was an honor and a personal sacrifice. His family joins many others who carried the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, several other images of Mary — and the fishermen's patron saint, St. Peter, through the downtown streets of Gloucester Sunday, highlighting the final day of Gloucester's 84th St. Peter's Fiesta.
Sunday's celebration began with a mass in honor of the saint, with hundreds filling the brick St. Peter's Square.
Bishop Peter Ugiletto of Peabody, representing the Archdiocese of Boston, said that fishermen and the sea mark a central part of the Christian faith, noting that Christ first called the fisherman to follow him.
When mass concluded, men from Gloucester's Italian community lifted the statue of Saint Peter to music from marching bands and the procession started down Gloucester's streets, heading to St. Ann's church, center of the Holy Family Parish, and Our Lady of Good Voyage.
Nearly 30 children walked at the head of the procession, carrying oars denoting fishing vessels that retired in Gloucester Harbor, and vessels that never made it home to port.
Ryan Muniz said he was honored to carry the oar of his late grandfather's fishing boat, the Blue Surf, which retired. Some children didn't have family connection to the oars, but wanted to carry them anyway.
"It's fun because you get to see people you know on the sidelines," said Katy Balestraci.
For those on the sidelines and walking in the procession, Fiesta remains all about family and traditions going back longer than a single person can remember.
Deborah Cauns and Don Parsons came out to the Fiesta procession to celebrate with family and friends.
Cauns said her family has lived on Mansfield Street for years, and most of her family has grown up in the same house along the street. She said she comes to Fiesta because, other than Christmas Eve, it's the only time her entire family comes together. She said that, while the weather this year has been less than ideal — with rain dampening the first three days of the celebration, she came out anyway.
"We'd be here in the rain," she said.
The rain kept crowds down lower than in previous years, with the carnival closing early Wednesday and Thursday because of the weather. But, with the weather lifting this weekend, people came in droves to Rogers Street for the procession, mass and carnival on Sunday.
Several residents said the sun always seems to come out on the day of the procession, and Sunday, as soon as the last word left the priests during mass, the sun broke through a week long cloud cover.
The sun brought out residents who may be Fiesta landmarks themselves, including Robin McNair, famous for her hats. This year, she built a hat that included the altar and the St. Peter's club.
For Tony Parco, the procession and celebration are a tradition he's known all his life. All 53 years of it. He said he hasn't missed one yet.
"We come this day to tell the world who we are," said Uglietto, on the steps of St. Ann's church, "we are a people who have faith."
The procession wound its way back down Main Street, leaving behind streaming confetti canons, and shouts of "Viva San Pietro," and ended back at the St. Peter's square. Father Ronald Gariboldi, pastor at St. Ann's, concluded the ceremonies with the annual Blessing of the fleet from the iconic Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial.
The blessing also marked the last for Gariboldi in his ministry at St. Ann's. Gariboldi celebrated his jubilee 50th year in the priesthood earlier this year, and is planning to retire.
"We commend those who sail these craft into His care," he said, naming a host of vessels — including the Schooner Thomas E. Lannon, and the visiting U.S. Navy ship, the USS Oak Hill.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.