Watch: Gloucester’s greasy pole contest looks as painful as ever

After a pandemic hiatus, some brave souls returned to tackle the North Shore's favorite slippery protuberance.

A contestant in the greasy pole contest at St. Peter's Fiesta misses it by that much. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

There’s no denying that the world around us is in disarray and that things seem to be changing at lightning speed, typically not for the better. But there’s at least one thing you can count on: Once a year, a bunch of brave souls in Gloucester will try to cross a giant, greased-up pole before falling into the ocean.

At least that was the case from 1931, when this unique version of capture-the-flag made its debut at St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester, up through 2019. The pandemic placed that event on hold over the last two years, but it came roaring back this past weekend with its famous contest intact.

A greasy pole contestant falls into the water during St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester. – JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Students of the annual affair — which features gamers in all sorts of getups making the short-but-treacherous trip across the pole over Gloucester Harbor — know that tip-toeing is not an especially effective strategy. A full-on sprint across the slippery protuberance offers really the only chance for success, despite the advanced risk of, shall we say, splitting the difference should you lose your footing.

At least both of this contestant’s legs stayed on the same side of the pole as he went down for the count. – JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

This year featured a repeat performance by Derek Hopkins, the 2019 winner, who took the flag once again on Sunday before a cheering crowd at Pavilion Beach. Impressive, but still far short of Salvi Benson’s historic 1968-1980 run, which saw a still-unmatched 11 wins.

A greasy pole contestant hits the water in Gloucester on Sunday. – JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images
Anthony Novello, 33, gets sprayed by beer during a celebration of his effort during a preliminary round of the greasy pole contest at St. Peter’s Fiesta Friday. – JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Fortunately for us, Matthew Gregoire (@BreakngNewsPhtg on Twitter) posted some of the highlights:

And lest you think we only care about such things here in New England, here are highlights from Euronews’s No Comment TV — this thing is international!

Pole Position:


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on