Get Giglio with it! Italian festival wants hipsters to join in

Gettin’ Giglio with it! Williamsburg fest hoists tower for 112th year
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Hipsters are welcome at the feast!

A century-old religious festival in Williamsburg wants the skinny-jean set to join in the celebration. Organizers of the Giglio Italian Feast at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Williamsburg say that everyone is welcome to join festivities, which last July 6–17, and that even the most recent arrivals to the neighborhood can join the dancing and singing crowds.

“Williamsburg is a hipster neighborhood — lots of people go. You do have Italian Catholics, but you have those people who are new who might not have grown up in the neighborhood — and they’re curious,” said Carolyn Stone, a spokeswoman for the festival. “Everyone will be able to enjoy even if they’re not part of the heritage or history.”

The annual feast, now in its 113th year in Brooklyn, celebrates the story of San Paulino, a kidnapped bishop. The 12-day festival is most famous for its 70-foot tower, which is carried by a 125-man platoon while a brass band plays music (sometimes including the theme song to the film “Rocky”).

Around 50,000 people come out each year to see the tower dance through the streets and attend the festival, which is filled with games, rides, and traditional Italian food booths.

The tradition: Thousands of people watch the ‘Dance of the Giglio,” a re-enactment of townsfolk reactions to the return of San Paolino, when he returned to Italy from captivity.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Non-Catholics will not be able to lift the tower — an honor only given to longtime members of the community — but they can still enjoy the festival atmosphere of the Giglio Feast, said Stone.

“Young people in the area can get the opportunity to socialize — and people like to be around the lifting of the Giglio,” she said. “It’s a festival — between the eating, drinking, clapping, singing, dancing, and the opportunity to meet new people. People get to see different cultures. It’s a very uplifting cultural experience.”

The festival also features a mini-Giglio tower for kids to lift, on July 7 at 6 pm, getting in practice for lifting the big pillar years later.

“The Children’s Giglio tower is about 20 feet tall this year. About 60 kids lift at a time — and they take turns,” said Stone.

“Italian Giglio Feast” at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, [275 N. 8th St. between Havemeyer Street and Meeker Avenue in Williamsburg, www.olmcfeast.com, (718) 384–0223]. July 6–17, at various times. Dancing of the Giglio, July 10 at 2 pm. Free.

Heavy stuff: Kids carry a 20-foot tower at the Giglio Italian Feast.
Carolyn T. Stone