A beloved end-of-summer tradition that was unceremoniously cancelled last year was resurrected on Thursday, with Bensonhurst residents greeting the return of the Festa di Santa Rosalia — better known as the 18th Avenue Feast — as one would welcome a childhood friend returning to the neighborhood.
“I hope they never cancel it again,” said Elsa Sanchez, a 25-year-old Bensonhurst native who showed up to chow down on some of the feast’s signature sausage and peppers. “It’s what we look forward to. It’s how we know summer is ending.”
The decades-old festival in honor of the patron saint of Palermo between 68th and 75th streets was filled with Italian flag-colored decorations, rides, rows upon rows of food vendors and a giant inflatable chair — a Brooklyn street festival tradition, although no one can tell you why.
Residents say they were overjoyed when they heard that the fair, which will close on Sept. 2, was returning after a year-long absence.
“We were devastated when the Feast was cancelled,” said Kris Deliz, who began attending the annual event when he was five and now shares the tradition with his young family. “This is what puts a cap on summer — the one last hurrah.”
Longtime festival-goers said that the 18th Avenue Feast was a bit different this year: flavors at the fair had changed to reflect the neighborhood’s growing Asian and Hispanic populations — a move many saw as a positive step.
“This year we have some Spanish food, which I love,” Basile said. “It’s a mixing of different of cultures, which is great.”
Organizers pulled the plug on the Feast last year, claiming that the city dragged its feet in issuing permits for the event and left them very little time to set everything up for its scheduled Aug. 25 kickoff. The city refuted those claims, however, claiming that organizers had temporary permits so they could have made preparations if they wanted to.
The traditional procession with the statue of Santa Rosalia will take place on Sept. 1, organizers said.
The Procession of Santa Rosalia at the 18th Avenue Feast [Corner of 68th Street and 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst] on Sept. 1 at 2 pm. Free.