(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
The North End’s 101st annual Fisherman’s Feast began Thursday night, with the procession of the Madonna to Christopher Columbus Park for the Blessing of the Fishing Waters.
The event, one of the largest of the North End’s summer feasts, honors the Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca. The tradition originated in the 16th century in the Italian fishing village of Sciacca, where the fishermen pledged their devotion to the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help), the Patroness of Sciacca.
Immigrants from the village brought the festival to the North End in 1910, and today their descendents carry on the tradition. State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, a North End native, lives along the feast route and said the event was “something that anybody that’s grown up here has grown to love.”
“It’s a big celebration for everyone in the neighborhood,” Michlewitz said. “It’s a great moment, and it’s a great weekend. I’m looking forward to it.”
The feast will continue through Sunday night, concluding at 11 p.m. with a raffle drawing for a $2,500 cash prize. The weekend’s events include live music, comedy, and tributes to the Madonna del Soccorso, with the climax being Sunday night’s Flight of the Angel, when young Ciara D’Amico will float above North Street as the statue of the Madonna concludes a day-long procession with its final return to the headquarters of the Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca Society.
Naturally, the feast offers lots of food, including seafood, pasta and other Italian favorites, and sweets from chocolate-dipped bananas to deep-friend Oreos. Stands selling snacks, cigars, and Italian-themed merchandise line Fleet and North streets.
Speaking before the crowd at Christopher Columbus Park, the feast’s new co-chairman, Domenic Strazzullo Jr., said that as the 101st feast, this year’s event marks the beginning of 100 more years of the tradition. Strazzullo also thanked the city and the mayor for their long support of the event.
“This could not all be possible without the help of the City of Boston and Mayor Tom Menino,” he said. “Mayor Menino has helped us out to have our 101 years in the North End.”
Email Jeremy C. Fox at email@example.com.