A free directory of over 350 annual Italian-American festivals in the United States is now available through the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), the largest and oldest national organization for men and women of Italian heritage in the United States.
The Sons of Italy 2012 Italian Festival Directory lists 370 festivals in 39 states and the District of Columbia that are held 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 information about festivals held by Sons of Italy chapters as well as on the research of Paul Porcelli, an expert on Italian American festivals.
The early Italian immigrants brought the custom of honoring saints with outdoor ceremonies to America more than 100 years ago. 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 (64); New Jersey (57); California (41); Pennsylvania (37); and Illinois (27). Other states with significant numbers of festivals include Massachusetts (22), Ohio (20), Connecticut (16) and Florida (16).
Italian festivals are held coast to coast, including Maine, Alabama, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada, Washington State and Texas.
The oldest festival is believed to be the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Hammonton, NJ, which this year celebrates its 137th 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. Large festivals can also be found in West Virginia (Wheeling’s Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival in July and Clarksburg’s Italian Heritage Festival in September) and in Wisconsin (Milwaukee’s Festa Italiana in July), among others.
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 greased pole contest (the Feast of St. Peter in Gloucester, MA in June); and the Dance of the Lily (Festa del Giglio), 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. To download a copy of the report click here.
For a printed copy, send a large (9” x 12”), self-addressed envelope with .95¢ in stamps on it to:
Sons of Italy Festival Directory
219 E Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Sorry. No telephone or fax orders.
To add your festival to next year’s directory, please contact OSIA headquarters in Washington, D.C., by mail at the above address, by fax at 202/546-8168, or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. No telephone calls, please.
Send the name of the festival, month held, city, state and a contact person or organization with a telephone number and/or email address. Deadline for submissions: December 31, 2012.
Established in 1905, OSIA works at the community, national and international level to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.