By EMMA BARTLETT
It’s one week before the St. Mary’s Feast in Knightsville and Charlotte Schiapo has already finished preparing food for the annual five-day event. Her freezer is …
By EMMA BARTLETT
It’s one week before the St. Mary’s Feast in Knightsville and Charlotte Schiapo has already finished preparing food for the annual five-day event. Her freezer is filled with chicken soup, lasagna, meatballs, sausage and peppers, chicken and mushrooms, spinach pies and calzones – all of which she made from scratch.
Charlotte and her husband, Louis, are one of the many Knightsville families who host a house party to celebrate the Italian food and music festival. They have hosted the party for years and expect to have 25 to 30 neighbors and friends at this year’s dinner; Charlotte said her granddaughters will bring friends to this year’s celebration and, even though her daughter and son are in their 50s, their friends still stop by each year.
The two have lived in Knightsville for the past 55 years and served as co-presidents for the St. Mary’s Feast Society from 1975 to 1976. The Feast Society (which hosts this event) has roughly 300 members and is dedicated to venerating St. Mary under the title of Maria Santissima Della Civita.
Louis said they hold their party on Sunday, July 17; the St. Mary’s procession is in the afternoon, followed by bands coming to different houses to play songs and ending with fireworks.
“It’s a full day,” said Louis.
The St. Mary’s Feast tradition dates back to 796 A.D., at Mount Civita in the town of Itri, Italy. It is there, as the story goes, that a shepherd was cured of his muteness upon looking into a tree and observing an image of Mary and the infant Jesus. A temple was built at the site, and Pope Pius VI in 1777 commemorated the sacred event and crowned the “Maria Santissima della Civita” – the “Blessed Mother of Mount Civita.”
As immigrants from Itri settled in Cranston’s Knightsville section in the early 20th century, they brought the tradition with them. In 1905, Itrani immigrants organized the first St. Mary’s Feast in Cranston, preserving a core piece of their cultural identity for future generations.
St. Mary’s Feast Society President Matthew Volpi is a fifth generation member and has lived in Knightville since he was a child. His great-great grandfather was the second president of the society and he said joined because of the tradition.
“I’ve been hanging flags since I was 12 years old,” said Volpi, referencing the Italian flags that line the streets leading to Knightsville Square.
Vice President Ryan Nardolillo added that the society’s executive board and other dedicated members wake up at 5 a.m. and hang Italian flags in preparation for the festival. Nardolillo is a first generation member whose great grandfather was an honorary president of the society; Volpi brought him into the Feast Society.
This year’s St. Mary’s Feast runs from July 13 to July 17. As for what to expect at this year’s festival, Nardolillo said things will be a little different from years past. Nardolillo said Rockwell Amusements will provide rides and there will be T-shirts and merchandise for sale, book signings, face painting, a mime and a variety of food vendors. As for music, DJ Joe “Nice” Marasco will provide the entertainment on July 13, followed by Back in the Day Band on July 14, the Felix Brown Band on July 15, the Front and Center Band on July 16 and Those Guys Band on July 17.
Additionally, from July 12 to July 14, there will be a recitation of the Holy Rosary followed by the 7 p.m. Sacred Triduum in honor of Maria Santissima della Civita at St. Mary’s Church. On July 15 at 7 p.m., there will be an open-air mass in honor of Maria Santissima della Civita at St. Mary’s Church followed by a candlelight procession, and on July 17 there will be a 10 a.m. mass in honor of Maria Santissima della Civita followed by the annual patronal procession.
The procession will start at St. Mary’s Church after the 10 a.m. mass and will last an hour and a half; it will include a school float, Miss Rhode Island float, St. Mary’s Holy Name Society, Portuguese Independence Band, Cranston West Falcons Drumline, Falconettes and antique vehicles; former Cranston Mayor Michael Traficante will be the procession’s grand marshal.
Fireworks will start at 10 p.m. on Sunday night. The festivities will take place on the corner of Cranston Street and Phenix Avenue. Events will occur from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on July 13 through July 15, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on July 16 and noon to 11 p.m. on July 17.
Nardolillo said the Feast Society started planning the festival in March. The whole event costs $75,000 to put on and is paid for through fundraisers/events put on by the St Mary’s Feast Society Ladies’ Auxiliary during the year and sponsors.
Nardolillo said last year’s festival was a big year for the Feast Society.
“We grossed the most money ever last year coming off of covid,” Nardolillo said. “During covid, we were not allowed to do anything.”
He expects this year to be far bigger than last year.
He added that his efforts this year are dedicated to father’s memory. His father, Robert A Nardolillo Jr., passed away last year and was a big community supporter. He said Robert poured his heart out and gave everything he could to the feast society.
Nardolillo and Volpi recognized those who have helped make the feast possible: St. Mary’s Feast Society Ladies’ Auxiliary, dedicated members of the St. Mary’s Feast Society, Mayor Ken Hopkins, former Mayor Michael Traficante, the Cranston Police Department and Father Sisco at St. Mary’s Church.
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