Hoboken feast tradition continues

Italian Festival celebrates 85th anniversary this week

With the aroma of cannolis and zeppoles still fresh in the air from the recent St. Ann’s Feast, the 85th Annual Hoboken Italian Festival is ready to kick off, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept. 11 near Sinatra Park along the waterfront.
The Annual Hoboken Italian Festival is one of the largest Italian festivals on the East Coast. This year, it runs on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event takes place near Sinatra Park, on Sinatra Drive near Fourth Street, along the waterfront.
The event features entertainment on each of the nights.

Schedule of performers

On Thursday, Sept. 8, a group of singers from New Jersey American Idol Night is scheduled to perform on the main stage at Sinatra Park. The top three finalists from New Jersey featured on the hit FOX show “American Idol” are expected to perform, including Athena Reich, a Lady Gaga impersonator.

“The tradition is something that’s been in my family my whole life.” – Greg Gallo
Sept. 9 has been dubbed “Freestyle Friday,” and the main act will feature George Lamond and Judy Torres of 103.5 WKTU, a New York City radio station.
On Saturday, the Madonna Dei Martiri Feast Day, the festival will play music from Molfetta, Italy.
La Stranza Sensazione and world-renowned opera tenor Christopher Macchio will take the stage to sing Italian-themed music.
Opera3000 will also perform on Saturday before and after the evening fireworks, which will be held overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
On Sunday, the final day of the festival, the entertainment will feature New Jersey’s own Johnny Drama and Hoboken singer Krystal. The Bronx Wanderers are also scheduled to perform on Sunday night.
Since the last day of the festival will be held on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, special guest actor Danny Aiello will perform in a 9/11 tribute.

Cannoli contest

The Feast Day, Sept. 10, will also feature an annual cannoli-eating contest. Carlo’s Bakery, made famous by the television star “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro, will provide the cannolis for the contest. Valastro’s heritage traces back to the Italian port town of Molfetta, where the Feast Day of the Madonna Dei Martiri began over 600 years ago.

Mayor of Molfetta to join via TV

Greg Gallo is the head of public relations for the Italian Festival committee. Gallo said planning for the festival begins in January every year.
He also said that as the festival has grown over the years, the plans also become more complicated.
“It’s become a much more bureaucratic process,” Gallo said. “More so today than ever.”
Gallo said as part of a special tribute on Sept. 11, in addition to Aiello, a number of people from the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department will be present, as well as Port Authority Police and local emergency representatives.
The entertainment options at the festival will feature Italian foods, rides and games for children, and a balloon sculptor.
The tradition of the feast dates back to 1399, and since Molfetta is a port city, the feast day involves the statue of Madonna Dei Martiri being driven around on a boat on the Hudson River.
“The mayor of the city of Molfetta in Italy is planning to speak to the people of Hoboken during the Feast Day [Saturday] via television,” Gallo said. “This will happen while [he’s] at his own feast in Italy.”
Gallo has served on the committee for 16 years.
Every year on the Feast Day, the statue of the saint is carried out of St. Francis Church, located at 308 Jefferson St.
“It’s very solemn but also an exciting moment when the saint is carried out of the church,” Gallo said. “The tradition is something that’s been in my family my whole life.”
The majority of the money for the feast comes from donations from residents and people in Hoboken, Gallo said. The feast also has corporate sponsor partnerships to defray the costs, as well as vendors and food stands which also bring in money.
For more information on the event, visit HobokenItalianFestival.com.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com

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