A Williamsburg parish officially began the 136th annual Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast, a street festival full of Italian eats, music and games, with an opening mass and processional on July 5.
The 12-day festival, which dates back to 1887, celebrates Italian culture and tradition with tons of vendors selling authentic cuisine and sweet treats, games and more.
John Notaro, general festival chair, said the origins of the feast and special segment known as the Dancing of the Giglio began when Italian immigrants moved to Brooklyn and began introducing their traditions to the neighborhood.
Notaro said the event has stood the test of time and has managed to uphold its tradition despite the demographic of the neighborhood changing over the years.
“The nice thing about our feast is as much as it is embedded in tradition and history and that tradition is honored in all that we do, as Williamsburg in Brooklyn has changed, the feast is still here. It’s still going strong and is still available for everyone to be a part of,” he said.
One of the most famous parts of the fête is the lifting of a seven-story structure called the Giglio, which is decorated with flowers and the image of St. Paulinus. A twelve-piece brass band and a singer stand on a platform at the bottom of the statue.
Throughout the festival the Giglio — brass band and all — is lifted by a group of 112 dancing men. At the start of each lift, the men sing the official song of the festival, “O Giglio e Paradiso.”
“It’s a celebration of life in both how we celebrate our faith and how we celebrate our tradition and culture,” Notaro said.
Accompanying the Giglio is a massive ship, also carried by a group of men and decked out with decorations, musicians, and a singer.
Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, said the festival is an opportunity for the church to reach out to the neighborhood and show them what they believe.
“We prepare all year for this event. It keeps the parish alive for the year and it’s been a great sign of the church and of faith and of God in the community,” he said.
The street festival runs from July 5 until July 12 with different highlighted events including:
- The children’s Giglio and Family Night on Thursday, July 6, 2023, and Tuesday, July 11 at 6:30 p.m.
- The Dancing of the Giglio and Boat Parade on Sunday, July 9, 2023, at 1:30 p.m.
- The Night Dancing of the Giglio on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, at 7:30 p.m.
- Five Masses to celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Sunday, July 16, 2023, with a Vigil Mass set for Saturday, July 15 at 11 p.m.
- Capo Parade and Dancing of the Giglio on Sunday, July 16, 2023, at 1:30 p.m.
Domenic Varuzza, one of the event organizers, said it’s always fun to see the parish come alive during the annual celebration.
“It’s an exciting feeling that everything you work for all year,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “You see faces that you haven’t seen in a while come back and it’s kind of a rebirth of the parish.”