Smooth sailing for this year’s St. Peter’s Fiesta | St. Peter’s Fiesta

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Monday’s rain meant a crew would get wet tearing down the altar and stage of St. Peter’s Fiesta in St. Peter’s Square.

The silver lining was the rain held off for last week’s 95th anniversary Fiesta, the first since the summer of 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and health concerns regarding large gatherings.

While Fiesta was on hiatus in 2020 and 2021, it was as if it had never skipped a beat, never mind two years, as an outpouring of faith for the patron saint of fishermen and a way to bless the fleet and families of America’s oldest seaport.

People came from all over, by land and sea, to take in the carnival, the musical entertainment, or to pray that no one got hurt during the Greasy Pole contests at Pavilion Beach. People basked in confetti during the opening ceremony or in the procession while joining in the chanting of “Viva! Viva! Viva! Viva San Pietro!” during the five-day festival.

On Monday, just as it started to drizzle, St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee President Joe Novello, a retired electrician, was pulling cables adjacent to a trailer as workers stacked up pieces of the altar to put into storage.

“Everything went smooth,” Novello said. “The rain held off, it feels good now,” he said of the light drizzle.

“From what I understand from the police, it was very quiet, very few, very small incidents, but typical incidents.” Some of those incidents were not on Fiesta grounds and came after hours, Novello said.

Mayor Greg Verga said it was a pleasant surprise that Fiesta was so peaceful. He was concerned that things could get out of hand after such a long hiatus, but in speaking with fire Chief Eric Smith and police Chief Ed Conley, there was nothing to report from the Fire Department, and the Police Department reported a few minor arrests, including one for disorderly conduct and drunken driving, Verga said, but nothing more serious.

Verga said Conley told him the crowd was one of the biggest Fiesta had ever seen.

“The weather was great, the crowds were good, hopefully they all enjoyed the entertainment,” Novello said. “A lot of people got involved in the procession on Sunday which we were hoping they would.”

Novello said many people got involved with the procession in the days leading up to it, though it was smaller than in years past.

“We used to have a lot of families that would put floats and stuff in, and this year, you know, we didn’t get that turnout that we normally get.”

While the Fiesta is a tradition of the city’s Sicilian immigrants, those who hail from different parts of Italy carried likenesses of their patron saints in the procession, which they do every year, Novello said. “But we had a lot of little kids, younger people that were involved with their families,” Novello said.

The celebration of the Mass is usually well attended, Novello said, and that was the case Sunday. Organizers put out 600 chairs, and most of them were full, plus people were standing in the back of the square or sitting or standing on metal bleachers set up at the back.

The altar in St. Peter’s Square doubles as a stage for Fiesta’s nightly entertainment. Sometimes in the evenings, it can get cool and people leave the entertainment early, Novello said.

“But last night, it seemed like the crowd stayed,” Novello said of Sunday’s final event. “Saturday night, the crowd stayed which was good. Those are the big nights for the entertainment.”

Novello said the crowd at Pavilion Beach, on hand to watch the Greasy Pole and seine boat races, was “a little more than normal.”

“The boat traffic was way, way, way more,” he said. “You would think the way things are, the price of fuel and stuff, people wouldn’t be using their boats but I think everyone was just anxious to get out. It’s outdoors, you know. The wind was moving, blowing, so I mean, less of a chance of anyone getting sick or whatever.”

Novello estimated there were 200 boats in Gloucester Harbor on Sunday for the events.

“And the Coast Guard and the Harbormaster, they did a great job clearing the paths. I think everybody had fun,” he said.

Novello said it was worth the wait for the return of St. Peter’s Fiesta.

“It was just good to go off the way it did,” Novello said.

Novello said the organizing committee will take a few weeks off and then meet to see how it did, making sure all the bills get paid, and then take in feedback and suggestions from the public for what to do next year.

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714, or

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