It's official: There will be no St. Peter's Fiesta this June.
The St. Peter's Fiesta Committee made the announcement amid the uncertainty, rising death toll and uncertain future regulations about social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The potential dates of Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 will be reviewed based on the future directives from the governor as well as state and city officials.
Over the next week, the Fiesta Committee will be calling countless vendors about the June cancellation and check on availability should it go forward in a smaller event in the fall, but that is a really big "if" at this point, according to Fiesta Committee President Joseph Novello.
"We don't know at this time how the re-opening of the state and city will look like. Will there be a maximum number of people that can gather, among other considerations?," said Anthony Cusumano, a Fiesta Committee member. "We just don't know the landscape in June, and nobody on the committee wants to be responsible for an outbreak in the city of Gloucester. That would be devastating."
Novello said the Fiesta Committee will make an announcement later in the summer about the potential September dates.
"We put a lot of time and effort into preserving the heritage of Fiesta every year. But large gatherings continue to spread the virus," he said. "We hear every day in the news that there is a strong possibility of a resurgence once things start to open up so we have to be careful of that. We don't want to be the reason for people getting sick. Fiesta brings people home to Gloucester, and when you see someone you haven't seen in a while, the first thing you want to do is go over to them and shake their hand and give them a hug."
The St. Peter's Fiesta Committee strives to make the celebration a safe and memorable event for everyone, said Novello.
"Keeping this in mind through email and talks, it's best that we cancel everything for June. If by some miracle we can go forward in September, it would not be a full-blown Fiesta and likely there would be no carnival because the vendors and entertainers may have contracts to be elsewhere," he said. "Right now, it's a day-by-day thing and we have to wait."
Even though the September dates may be available, he said the committee will have to wait until later in July or early August before it can decide on whether to go ahead with the two days in the fall, which will be based on directives from the officials.
The St. Peter's Fiesta Committee works year-round to organize the five-day citywide celebration, though it began monitoring the global situation in early January because its button vendor in Florida used a manufacturing company in China; hence, the committee was hesitant to place an order for something that would be made in the epicenter of the pandemic and opted to seek out other options.
Regardless of whether there is a grand celebration, this year is still the 93rd year of the Fiesta, according to Novello.
He recalled during the World War II era, that even though there was not a public celebration one year, there were still novenas that were held in people's homes in homage to St. Peter, the patron saint of the fishermen.
"Anthony (Cusumano) and I compare it to a birthday party," said Novello. "Just because you may not have a birthday party doesn't mean you are not a year older."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at email@example.com.