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Strength in numbers! Williamsburgers old and new celebrate Giglio Feast - Brooklyn Paper

Strength in numbers! Williamsburgers old and new celebrate Giglio Feast

Shouldering the burden: Some burly men hoist the giant giglio tower.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It is the one high-rise in Williamsburg that doesn’t divide newcomers and old-timers.

Thousands of Brooklynites gathered outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on N. Eighth Street on Sunday to watch 125 burly men carry a 80-foot tall, 4-ton tower on their shoulders as part of the annual Giglio Italian Feast. It is a 113-year-old tradition for Italian-American families in the neighborhood, but participants say plenty of new residents stopped by to check it out — and they were welcomed with open arms.

“A lot of first-timers show up, they always ask a lot of questions,” said Domenic Varuzza, a native Williamsburger and one of eight “lieutenants” who lead the 125-person team of lifters. “It’s great people want to share this.”

The 11-day festival honors Saint Paulinus — or San Paolino to Italians — a fourth-century Bishop from the town of Nola, near Naples, who is said to have stopped pirates enslaving the townsfolk by offering himself up instead.

Sunday’s celebration was the first of three iconic “lifts” at the celebration, wherein the many totem-toters carry the spire — and a 12-piece brass band — on their shoulders.

Longtime attendees say it wasn’t just curious passersby dropping in to catch a look — the feast acts as something of a neighborhood reunion for former residents.

“We look forward to it all year, the whole community comes out,” said Carmela Muzio, who grew up right next to the church. “People come back even if they’re moved out, all of us who’ve grown up with it.”

The next big event will be the “night lift” on Wednesday, where the giglio tower is illuminated and lifted in the evening, and the “old-timers” day on Sunday, where retired lifters get to raise the pillar of strength once again.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Feast and Festival of the Giglio [275 N. Eighth St. at Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 384-0223, www.olmcfeast.com]. Night lift on July 13 at 8 pm, old-timers lift on July 17 at 2 pm. Free.

Reach deputy editor Ruth Brown at rbrown@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8309. Follow her at twitter.com/rbbrown.

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