Carrying on a Fiesta tradition

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff file photo/Five-year-old Alina Abarca carries an oar in memory of the Lady Francesca during the Sunday Procession of St. Peter during the 2016 Fiesta in Gloucester. Volunteers are needed for this year's "Carrying of the Oars."

Seventeen years ago Tom Aiello and friends from down the Fort decided to revive a tradition missing from Fiesta's Sunday procession that they took part in as children. And they're keeping it going this year, but they need some help.

As the 91st St. Peter's Fiesta opens its annual five-day run in and around St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Aiello, now 60, and his friends are planning this year’s traditional carrying of the oars as part of Sunday’s procession that follows the outdoor Mass.

Aiello is putting out the call for carriers, saying "I always worry that I won't have any kids. I want a ton of kids." 

But, he adds, "Anyone can do it — adults, children —  my 1 1/2-year-old grandson will be pushing one his in carriage."

"It's a wonderful way to become a part of the tradition, to take part in Fiesta or just take part in a Gloucester tradition," he said.

"Basically, you carry an oar of a past or present fishing boat. That oar represents not only the boat, but the family that owned it and the families of the crew that served on it," he said. "It's a really nice tradition that can be pretty emotional for the families."

The only caveat, he said, is that carriers must wear a white shirt, keeping the spirit of those carriers of long ago who wore crisply pressed white shirts and pants. 

"Parents and friends are welcome to walk around with us," Aiello said, adding, "I've been watching the forecast and it's gonna be hot on Sunday. We'll have plenty of water on hand for the walkers."

Aiello said anyone wanting to get an oar representing their fishing boat in the procession is "absolutely welcome," and may contact him for more information at 508-284-9461.

Anyone interested in being a carrier can call Aiello or just show up across Rogers Street from the St. Peter's Club, near the front of the Cape Ann Brewing Co., 11 Rogers St., and just to the side of the Fiesta altar and stage at St. Peter’s Square, around 11 a.m. Sunday.

Andrea Holbrook may be contacted at 978-675-2713 or

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