The fun, food and games may have begun Wednesday, but the 91st annual celebration of the patron saint of fishermen didn't officially start until Friday night.

As 7 o'clock approached, families with young children in tow, older couples, teens, a wide variety of folks, all began to gather and line either side of Rogers Street, waiting for the statue of Saint Peter to emerge from the St. Peter's Club and the ceremonial procession to begin.

Joe and Betty Laiacano were among the crowd. They said they walk down from their house on Hampden Street every year.

"It feels like every year since I was born," said Joe Laiacano, laughing.

He added that his father used to compete in the seine boat races. His grandfather, for that matter — who was a seine boat fisherman — actually contributed his boats to some of the early Fiesta races, he said.

"People come home just to see Fiesta every year," said Betty Laiacano.

It's a tradition to come see Saint Peter every year, they said. It never gets old, and neither does he.

As the statue of the saint, carried on the shoulders of his guardians, turned right onto Tally's Corner, most of the crowd followed behind, up to Legion Square, around the Legion Hall and back down Angle Street to St. Peter's Square for the installation at the stage.

They shouted "Viva, viva San Pietro!" as they went.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, delivering brief remarks later in the ceremony, said everyone was gathered there not only to give thanks for Saint Peter, but also to "stand strong no matter what's happening across the country."

She said Gloucester is all about its people caring for each other.

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, both Gloucester residents, offered brief remarks as well.

"I love every minute of it," said Grace Zerilli from her spot on Washington Street. "All the families get together and come back for this," she said. "It's a strong tradition."

"This is the best part," she said, indicating the opening ceremonies, "this and the closing."

John Castelluccio can be reached at 978-675-2708 or jcastelluccio@gloucestertimes.com.

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