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Tradition of Italian Outdoor Festivals Thriving in 21st Century America, Reports Sons of Italy®

Press Contact: Diane Crespy, 202/547-8115

For Immediate Release:

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2002 – A new study from the Order Sons of Italy®® inAmerica (OSIA) reveals that Italian American communities across the nation are keeping alive the tradition of ceremonies honoring a favorite saint brought to America by early Italian immigrants at the turn of the last century.

The Sons of Italy® 2002 Italian Festival Directory lists 312 Italian festivals in 23 states and the District of Columbia that are held between March and November annually. The directory supplies each festival‚s name, month it is held, city, state and contact information. It is 24 pages long and is based on the research of Paul Porcelli, who is filming these festivals and plans to write a book about them.

"OSIA is deeply grateful to Paul Porcelli for his generosity in sharing his festival information with us," said National President Robert A. Messa. "It is the result of many years of research, enormous effort and considerable expense on his part to fulfill his mission to capture these traditional ceremonies on film and in print."

The custom of honoring favorite saints with outdoor ceremonies was brought to America more than 100 years ago by the early Italian immigrants. The festivals vary in size and character. Some consist of only the saint's statue, a band and a procession, while others are colossal celebrations that last several days and include symphonic bands, entertainers, food stands, rides and fireworks. A familiar sight at most festivals is the saint's statue covered with money or jewelry, which is later donated to the local church or saint's society.

The five states with the most festivals are: New York (74), New Jersey (57), Pennsylvania (38), Illinois (30) and Massachusetts (26). Other states with significant numbers of festivals include Connecticut (18), California and Ohio (15 each) and Rhode Island (11).

Italian festivals are held coast to coast, including Maine, Alabama, Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, Washington state, and Texas. [Full state-by-state tally follows release.]

According to Porcelli, the oldest festival is believed to be the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Hammonton, N.J., which this year celebrated its 127th anniversary in July. The biggest festival is the Feast of San Gennaro held every September in New York City, which attracts about one million people. Other large festivals are in Milwaukee ("Festa Italiana" in July) and Clarksburg, W.V. (the Italian Heritage Festival in August).

Some festivals include such traditional events as the Flight of the Angels (the Feast of the Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca in Boston, in August; the Feast of Our Lady of Laurentana in Berwyn, Ill., in September), the Greased Pole Contest (the Feast of St. Peter in Gloucester, Mass., in June; the Feast of Saint Rocco in Malden, Mass., in August), and the Dance of the Lily, in which about 100 men carry a five-ton platform through the streets for hours (in Brooklyn, East Harlem and Massapequa, in June and July).

The Sons of Italy® directory is free. It can be found on the OSIA Web site at For a printed copy, send a large (9"x 12"), self-addressed envelope with $1.29 in stamps on it to:

Sons of Italy® Festival Directory
219 E Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
Sorry. No telephone or fax orders.

To add your festival to next year's directory, please contact OSIA headquarters in Washington by mail at the above address or by fax (202/547-1492) or e-mail: No telephone calls, please.

Send the name of the festival, month held, city, state and a contact person or organization with a telephone number. Deadline for submissions: January 31.

The Sons of Italy® 2002 Italian Festival Directory
Compiled by the Order Sons of Italy in America®, Washington, DC

State by State Tally:

1.) New York 74 13.) Delaware 2

2.) New Jersey 57 14.) Louisiana 2

3.) Pennsylvania 38 15.) Maryland 2

4.) Illinois 30 16.) West Virginia 2

5.) Massachusetts 26 17.) District of Columbia 1

6.) Connecticut 18 18.) Indiana 1

7.) California 15 19.) Maine 1

8.) Ohio 15 20.) Missouri 1

9.) Rhode Island 11 21.) Nebraska 1

10.) Wisconsin 5 22.) Nevada 1

11.) Colorado 4 23.) Texas 1

12.) Alabama 3 24.) Washington State 1

Established in 1905, OSIA has more than 575,000 members and supporters and a network of 700 chapters coast to coast. It is the nation's largest and longest-established organization for people of Italian descent. OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 24 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To learn more, visit OSIA on the Web at or contact us by e-mail at