For 99 years, Hoboken has hosted a five-day celebration of St. Ann, the patron saint of pregnant women, at St. Ann’s Church at Seventh and Jefferson streets. The “Feast of St. Ann” has grown to lure tourists and locals alike with its concerts, vendors, and warm, doughy zeppoles.
According to Christian tradition, St. Ann was Jesus’ grandmother – his mother Mary’s mother. She is considered to be the patron saint of pregnant women because although she was thought to have been sterile, she conceived the Blessed Virgin very late in life.
The festival begins on Wednesday, July 22 and ends on Sunday, July 26. It opens daily at 6 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. The nine-day Novena in honor of St. Ann will begin on Friday, July 17 and end on Saturday, July 25.
On Sunday, July 26, the actual feast day of St. Ann, a special 12 p.m. Mass will be held at St. Ann’s Church, 704 Jefferson St. This will be followed by the spectacular pageantry of the procession of the 600-pound statue of St. Ann through the streets of Hoboken carried exclusively by her female devotees.
The church was completed in 1906, and the first festival was held in 1910.
Throughout the festival, visitors will enjoy headline entertainment, including returning favorites The Nerds (a Jersey-based cover band) and Cristina Fontanelli (a former resident who sings Italian favorites). The nightly entertainment begins at 8:15 p.m. at the stage on Seventh and Jefferson streets directly across from St. Ann’s Church.
Other acts will include award-winning tribute artist Ryan Pelton, who will perform Elvis Presley classics. Also featured will be New Jersey’s very own ’60s rock-and-rollers Joey Dee & the Starliters.
The Festival also will feature the encore production of “My Italy Story.” The play will be performed at the Monroe Center, adjacent to the festival at 720 Monroe St., on July 22, 24, and 26 at 8 p.m. and July 25 at 3 p.m.
During the festival, attendees will be treated to specialty Italian food from parishioners, including the famous zeppole, whose secret recipe is faithfully guarded by the St. Ann’s Guild. The fried, doughy treat comes with powdered sugar on top. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan visited the festival for the sole purpose of trying this Italian treat, quipping, “I heard about your zeppoles.”
The historic festival rates as one of the “100 Top Events” for the year in North America by the American Bus Association, and hailed “The Only and Only” by the New York Times and “An essential event of the summer” by The Star-Ledger.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Hoboken residents who had immigrated from San Giacomo in Italy planned a great feast. They had already established a “St. Ann’s Society” on Jefferson Street to bring people of the same background closer together, and constructed a church from 1903 to 1906 at Seventh and Jefferson.
“The successful construction of the church,” according to the St. Ann’s website, “inspired the Society to develop plans for a celebration or festa that would serve to honor St. Ann, strengthen their devotion, and preserve a cherished tradition.”
Ultimately they held a two-day festival in July of 1910 in honor of San Giacomo and in honor of St. Ann. The tradition has continued ever since, although the festival has expanded to five days.
For festival information, call 201-659-1114 or visit www.st-annchurch.com.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at email@example.com.
St. Ann’s Festival music lineup
All events begin at 8:15 p.m. on the main stage at Seventh and Jefferson streets.
Wednesday, July 22: Latin Night, featuring Son del Pueblo & Orchestra
Thursday, July 23: Ryan Pelton’s Tribute to the King
Friday, July 24: The Nerds
Saturday, July 25: Joey Dee & The Starliters
Sunday, July 26: Cristina Fontanelli & Orchestra