St. Peter’s Fiesta, better known by locals as simply ‘Fiesta’ is Gloucester, MA’s holiday extravaganza. Being America’s oldest seaport, our hometown of Gloucester has fishing in its blood, so Fiesta is a five-day festival at the end of June celebrating the Patron Saint of Fishermen, St. Peter.
The main draw to this weekend is Greasy Pole. A wooden structure stands 200 feet offshore with a telephone pole hanging horizontally out over the water. During Fiesta they grease it, dress up in costumes and run the pole. Whoever catches the flag at then end first is a local hero for life. See what we mean in this video:
Although Fiesta starts on Wednesday, Greasy pole takes place only on the weekend. The winner of Friday walks Saturday, the winner of Saturday walks Sunday, which is known as “Championship Sunday”. Only past winners of the pole walk on Sunday, making it a round of “Champs”. This is all done in the name of St. Peter. Throw in a carnival, seine boat races, fireworks, seafood and you have one fun-filled weekend.
As the sun descends after Greasy Pole, the carnival comes alive. Screams from the rides mix with the Italian melodies being performed on the outdoor altar in St. Peter’s Square. The old mix with the young as families gather to watch the night’s entertainment. Like a favorite song, this is put on replay for three nights straight.
Now, in its 87th year, Fiesta’s origins come from the fishing families of the Fort Neighborhood of Gloucester in the 1920’s. Mainly an Italian fleet back then, St. Peter was enshrined in the same neighborhood by the Favazza family. Within the same month of its making, wives and families of local fishermen began to come to pray to St. Peter for the safety of their fathers, brothers, husbands and granddads. Soon a religious procession was planned to be held on the Feast of St. Peter, June 29. Over the next few years, the ceremony grew to a day long demonstration of faith and respect for the patron saint that was keeping their loved ones safe. By 1931 it was officially a three-day observation and is now a five-day festival today.
St. Peter’s Fiesta is firmly based on religious celebrations and offerings to St. Peter, protector of fishermen. While you enjoy the rides, food, music, sports and of course, Greasy Pole, don’t forget to take a moment to think of the men and women that haul up a day’s catch that end up on your plate as hot boiled lobster and baked haddock. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it.
[nggallery id = 189]