‘Roch’ out at church’s annual feast

One of the more notable features of the annual St. Roch’s Feast is on Sunday when a statue of St. Roch is carted through the streets and residents pin monetary donations to the figure. — John Ferris Robben photo

One of the more notable features of the annual St. Roch’s Feast is on Sunday when a statue of St. Roch is carted through the streets and residents pin monetary donations to the figure.
— John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich residents will be able to sink their teeth into a festival for all ages this week at the 2013 St. Roch Feast, taking place through Saturday night at St. Roch Church.

The annual festival celebrates the church’s patron saint, St. Roch, while upholding traditional Italian customs and uniting the Chickahominy community at an event that includes, food, games, entertainment and more for the whole family. It began last night and is scheduled to continue through Saturday.

According to feast committee member Jackie Budkins, the St. Roch Feast is the church’s biggest fund-raiser of the year but also serves as a neighborhood gathering where residents celebrate the town’s Italian heritage and the community as a whole. The feast, known in Italian as “La Festa di San Rocco,” is a traditional mid-August festival that dates back hundreds of years to rural Italy and continues today in Greenwich, Ms. Budkins said.

This year, attendees will have no shortage of activities as the feast will provide entertainment each night beginning at 6:30, including musical acts such as Angie Rubino, Gunsmoke and JFC Music Productions by Francesco Castiglione. In addition, adults will have the opportunity to enjoy a beer and wine garden, back by popular demand, Ms. Budkins said. Children will also have their fair share of attractions, including pony rides, a petting zoo, a magician, carnival rides and balloon and sand art.

“There’s something for everyone,” Ms. Budkins said.

Anyone who’s hungry will have plenty of options because carnival fare, she added, will be abundant and includes the feast’s famous “pizza fritte” — an Italian version of fried dough — along with hot dogs and hamburgers served up by the Knights of Columbus, steak wedges, chicken parmesan, cotton candy, sausage and peppers and plenty of other options.

The feast is made possible by 40 to 60 volunteers per day who balance the approximately 500 community members expected to attend the festival each evening, Ms. Budkins said. And while the goal is to raise as much money as possible for the church each year, she added that the St. Roch Feast is mostly about uniting the community.

With a number of considerable prizes up for grabs, one of the feast’s highlights includes a raffle, Ms. Budkins said. Raffle tickets cost $25 a piece and enter participants into a drawing for four major prizes. The first place winner will receive a 2013 Fiat 500. The second, third and fourth place winners will receive a $6,000, $4,000 and $1,000 American Express gift card, respectively. The drawing will be held on Saturday, the last night of the feast, at 11 p.m.

Aside from community neighbors, a number of prominent town figures also attend the St. Roch Feast, including Selectman David Theis, Police Chief James Heavey and Town Clerk Carmella Budkins, each of whom volunteers at the event. Other familiar faces often include Selectman Drew Marzullo, state Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151st) and First Selectman Peter Tesei, she said.

The St. Roch celebration will officially be concluded, after the four festival days, on Sunday, Aug. 11, when Mr. Tesei will serve as honorary grand marshal in the church’s grand procession. Following Italian tradition, parishioners participate in the procession by following a statue of St. Roch as it is carted through the streets of Chickahominy, where residents pin monetary donations to the figure. The procession will be followed by a brief Mass by St. Roch pastor the Very Rev. Matthew Mauriello.

The St. Roch Feast will be held tonight and on Friday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. The feast will be extended to 11 p.m. on Saturday, when raffle winners will be chosen.

Parking for the event is available at 500 West Putnam Avenue, where a shuttle will provide transportation to and from the feast.


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