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~ Malden Musings ~ Saint Rocco 2023 Edition

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By Peter Levine


Ramblings and picked up pieces while delighting in my 56th year at the San Rock Festa…What fun we had three weeks ago at the 93rd Annual Feast of Saint Rock! Pearl Street was rocking – bursting at the seams with San Rock Pilgrims longing to sample the homemade Italian food, bust a move to the fab musical lineup and eager to share with friends and family alike the aches, pains and illnesses they’ve endured since the last time they met (oh vey!). Insert smiley face. The Feast (don’t call it a Festival!) has been around for 93 years. We are lucky to have had at least two locals at this year’s Feast that have been around for each and every single one of them. I had my picture taken with 95-year-young Nick “Handsome Nick” Angelo on Sunday followed by a great Kodak Moment with Jimmy Carducci’s mom, Esther, who at 98-years-young is still hosting family and friends in her backyard, making sure the fried dough is not overcooked.

Looking over the multitude on the jam-packed Saturday night (WildFire kicked out the jams, bigly!), I saw many faces that I did not recognize. Truth be told, that brings much joy to the hearts and minds of those running the Feast. The Feast has always been inclusive, never exclusive. I also saw many familiar faces. It’s like that on San Rock weekend; you may not live in the neighborhood any longer but your heart lives on forever on that lyric little neighborhood we call Edgeworth.

Growing up in Edgeworth, we set our summer social calendar around the Feast, realizing that there’s one more shivoo before the dreaded school year starts. When we were young, we never paid attention to how the Feast was organized or how it was structured. The Feast just happened. On that second weekend in August, the food stands were just set up, the music just played on, the Grease Pole was planted and the pretty neighborhood girls just appeared – every year. I certainly pay attention these days since I am on the committee. So many components to running this thing of ours. Who knew?!

With that said I bring to you this article from the Malden Evening News in 1974. Pay attention to the names. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. You’ll notice familiar last names from almost 50 years ago. Many of the same names that helped organize the very first Feasts; many of the same names that still have a hand in the Feast in 2023. The San Rock Feast (not a Festival!) was lovingly handed down, generation to generation:


“Large Crowds Expected for Saint Rocco Fete”

Large crowds are expected all weekend for the three-day St. Rocco Festival (Feast!) that starts tonight with an Italian child star as the featured performer.

Guglielmo Villaggio, 10, will open the festivities tonight with the Midnighters musical group. Villaggio, who has already reached star status in Italy, will appear on the Lawrence Welk Show in the fall.

A “Cavalcade of Stars” is planned Saturday featuring six entertainers and Angelo Picardi, an internationally known singer, will return Sunday.

All performances are scheduled from 8-11 p.m. They will be given outdoors on Pearl St. near Saint Peter’s Church, which is a holding the festival (Feast!).

The highlight of the festival (Feast!) will be the annual procession Sunday afternoon of the statue of Saint Rocco which this year will feature two drum and bugle corps.

The event has been a tradition for almost 50 years in the predominantly Italian parish in honor of its patron saint.

Born to French nobility, St. Rocco later renounced his wealth and worked among the poor in Italy. Many miracles on their behalf have been attributed to him.

One St. Peter’s parishioner, flying through heavy flack on a bombing raid over Germany in World War 2, reports of closing his eyes and praying to St. Rocco to get him through safely and he says he arrived unscathed over his target.

The festival (Feast!) was started by the late Rocco Candalora and Donato DeScipio was chairman of the event for more than 20 years before he was forced to give it up two years ago (1972) because of illness.

John Puleo is the current chairman and the Rev. Joseph Veneto, the pastor, is the honorary chairman.

Fireworks are no longer part of the festival (Feast!), but the event will again include rides and games for the children on all three nights at Pearl St. Park across the street from the church. The popular greased pole event will also be held at the park Sunday night at 6 pm after the procession.

The procession starts at 2 pm. It will follow a route through the Edgeworth section and the Ambassadors, and the Grenadiers drum and bugle corps will take part.

The “Cavalcade of Stars” will feature Roberta Mauriello, Dr. Philip Conti, Lucy Meuse, Joyce Bonsignore, Don Romano, and Giuseppe Pisaturo. The Horizons, a musical group, will also perform.

Committee chairmen for the festival (damn it, Feast!) include Butch Gennetti, Daniel Brandano, Richard Zampitella, Joseph Paschal, Lucy Martin Zampitella, Anthony Spadafora, Muffie DeDonato, and Ward 2 Councilor Domenic Fermano.

It is said in “Malden Musings San Rock Edition”…

  • Mayor (Gary) Christenson is such a good sport! He loves the Feast and the tradition, and he is a very important part of the weekend. But you could tell, after our Friday night “Stock 82” salute – which ain’t the smoothest drink around – that he (and many others) could have used a more high-end brandy to pay homage to the weekend and the Festa. For your dedication to the Feast, Mr. Mayor, we salute you! Insert great big smiley face.
  • The “Saint Rocco Weekend 10th Player Award” this year hands down went to City of Malden Animal Control Officer (and much more) Kevin “Boss Dawg of the Boneyard” Alkins. Not sure how this Feast could run so smoothly without him. Thank you for all that you do, Mr. Alkins.
  • Another San Rock Pilgrim who has been to most of the Feasts is living legend Malden Police Commissioner (Sal) “Butchie” Gennetti. One of the more popular Maldonians, Butch told me that best he can recall, he’s been to 85 Festas, the exact number of years he has been on Mother Earth. Butchie remembers his father bringing him to the Feast as a baby. His dad had a stand that sold Lamb Tips on a skewer at five for 25 cents! Butchie became addicted to lamb at a very early age. Thank you, Butch, for everything you do for the city that loves you so much.
  • I just love the photos that accompany this article! The future of San Rock, the 2023 “Cannoli Girls!” Left to right: Rylee Walker (Medford High on her way to Endicott College), Gianna Spadafora (Malden Catholic on her way to the University of Tampa), Carmella Spadafora (Mystic Valley Charter School on her way to Malden Catholic) and Kaylee Sullivan (Malden Catholic on her way to Bentley University and the apple of her father Neil’s eye!).
  • It was an unrelenting mass of humanity for three days in August! I saw…Warren Lynch at the Feast, as well as Craig Spadafora (not together of course – insert smiley face). The class of 1973 MHS was represented by Jackie Gerrin, Joe Levine, Ronny Drinkwater, Tommy Stein and Mike Clapp. Jackie Bouley and Douglas Tran from All Seasons’ Table were making merry till closing time. And Shawn Brickman and his son Earl Barter never miss a Feast.

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – San Rock 2023 is in the books! Once again, we gathered on freshly weed-whacked, pothole-free Pearl Street (thank you, Mr. Mayor) to celebrate the best three days of the year in Malden: Saint Rocco Feast weekend. Marvelous weather welcomed pilgrims from far and wide to enjoy this spectacular weekend of music, food and friendship. Once again, thank you, Billy Settemio – from the Italian American Citizens’ Club – and San Rock Committee Chairperson Joyce Mover (and her trusty second in command, Anthony Spadafora) for making the weekend a smashing success. The I.A.C.C. and its members generously donated their time, money and resources to make it yet another San Rock that we’ll never forget, and Joyce donated her blood, sweat and tears as she does every year to ensure that this lifeline to our past survives another year.

Postscript 1: For I and many other Edgeworthians, it is the continuity of the San Rock Festa that is buried deep in our hearts. The way we can set our inner clock to the Feast, that second weekend in August, every year. That “organic connection to the heart and mind” that those of us who grew up in Edgeworth and Ward 2 all feel. If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise, see you all next year on Pearl Street.

Postscript 2: I am still in shock at the news that Nick Gizzi’s mom, Pearl Street’s Judy Busconi, passed away shortly after the Festa. Details to follow.

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