Old World pageantry comes to life this week in the heart of the nation’s oldest seaport during the annual St. Peter’s Fiesta, now celebrating its 92nd anniversary in Gloucester.
The five-day event — starting today, June 26, and running through Sunday, June 30 — features everything from music in the open air to sporting events to an outdoor Mass and religious procession of saints through the streets of the city, first settled in 1623.
The St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester was begun in homage to St. Peter, a fisherman from Galilee. The annual celebration of the patron saint of fishermen kicks off on Wednesday, although the official opening ceremony is Friday evening at St. Peter’s Square.
But the highlights for the St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee, whose members work nearly year-round in preparation, will be on Sunday, starting with the outdoor Mass at St. Peter’s altar at 10 a.m. The religious procession takes to the streets afterward, which will be followed by the Blessing of the Fleet on Sunday afternoon.
The Fisherman’s Memorial on Stacy Boulevard, which runs along the panoramic Gloucester Harbor, stands testament to the dangers of fishing. The 8-foot-tall bronze statue of the “Man at the Wheel” draws a continuous stream of visitors all year. On the granite block on which the memorial stands is an inscription from Psalm 107, which reads: “They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships.”
For many residents, St. Peter’s Fiesta is almost like a homecoming because many people who have moved away know this is a time to reconnect with family or friends they grew up with, as well as enjoy the diverse activities. Some people come to enjoy the carnival and others to people-watch, and, of course, a big attraction is the Greasy Pole Contest, which takes place each afternoon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Joe Novello, president of the fiesta committee, said that this is a cherished tradition that so many families and visitors look forward to every year for many different reasons.
He noted that prior to St. Peter’s Fiesta, the novena — or nine days of prayer — takes place at the American Legion, the Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 on Washington Street.
“We like stressing the importance of family, faith and friendships,” Novello said. “St. Peter’s Fiesta provides a constant in a rapidly changing world. We hope it provides a time for peaceful fun.”