The members of St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee in collaboration with Buttieri Press are pleased to announce the release of an illustrated children’s book that explains the meaning behind the traditions of Gloucester’s St. Peter’s Fiesta.
Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? is the story of a young boy, Joey, and his cousins Amelia and Jacob who accompany their grandmother during the weekend festivities, learning as they go, about this annual celebration.
Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? is written through the eyes of children and aims to preserve an understanding of the values behind the tradition.
Every child has her or his favorite book, a book they want read to them again and again. As Joe Novello, Committee President, points out, “When they have a book they enjoy, they always pick that book to read and have it read to them. At some point there is a connection and the meaning of the book comes across, which is the intent. Then when Fiesta comes they can relate to it because the story has been read to them a hundred times. It’s embedded in them.”
The author, Laura M. Alberghini Ventimiglia, is a Gloucester resident whose family has a history of being involved with Fiesta. Even before the Fiesta began in the Italian neighborhood known as the Fort, relatives were living there and four generations experienced first hand the true meaning of Fiesta. This experience now extends through to the sixth generation with the author’s grandchildren.
Ventimiglia was inspired to write the book during the 2015 Fiesta. Participating with her children, grandchildren, and extended family members, she noticed that while everyone was having fun; the majority of people were enjoying the Fiesta as if it were a carnival. She realized that the further away from the original Fiesta, the further away participants are from knowing and understanding the meanings of the values behind the tradition.
She approached St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee members with her idea of a children’s book. They recognized the same dilemma of time. Committee members thought it was a great idea and decided to support the project because a children’s book could explain how the Fiesta started and what it was about. Anthony Cusumano, Committee Treasurer, described it appropriately. “So many years, generations have passed that maybe the younger generation had lost the original meaning. We wanted to bring it back to its roots. Help the young kids today know what the whole meaning of Fiesta is, what the meaning of the novena is, the greasy pole contest, the seine boats and so forth. We wanted to get back to the times when that’s what the Gloucester fishing fleet was about.”
Ventimiglia worked with Committee members for two years, gathering their ideas, and keeping them informed of the progress of writing, illustrating, and finally printing. She also spent months researching early Fiesta stories through microfilmed newspaper articles and interviewing people including Sara Favazza. Favazza is the youngest child of Captain Salvatore Favazza who commissioned the original statue in 1927 leading to the founding of the Fiesta tradition. “Sara was an amazing resource and infused her energy for the Fiesta into our work,” Ventimiglia says. “She was generous with her time, met frequently with me and even invited the illustrator, Maura O’Connor, and me to lunch. Maura dubbed Sara, ‘Fiesta Royalty’.”
Favazza describes Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? as “a beautiful book, a wonderful book that every child would love to have.” She says, “It’s marvelous. Every parent in Gloucester should buy one to read to their children to find out what the Fiesta is all about.”
Committee members say they are looking forward to this year’s Fiesta. They describe Fiesta as a time for family and friends, “a time for people to get together and reunite,” according to Novello. “As generations grew and spread throughout the country, Fiesta became a time when people return home, return to Gloucester knowing they will see people they haven’t seen in a year.” And, every year Committee members try to do something special. A special happening this year will be the release of Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta?
A family and friends release by the Committee for the 2017 holidays generated great excitement about the children’s book spurring tremendous anticipation for the upcoming sales to the general public.
Illustrator O’Connor, a graduate of Montserrat School of Art, lives in Beverly yet visited Gloucester often sketching the workings of its harbor. Diletta Ballati who lives in Italy and considers Gloucester her American home, translated the book into Italian, available online at https://buttieripress.com/festa.
The book also includes a brief history of the Fiesta, photos from the initial years, and photos by Kim Smith and Bridgette Mathews of last year’s 90th celebration.
All proceeds from sales of the book go to The St. Peter’s Fiesta, Inc., a 501c3 organization aimed at preserving this Sicilian-Italian American tradition of Gloucester’s fishermen.
Scheduled to be released to the public on June 1, 2018, accompanying events throughout the month include:
June 1 to June 30 –The Bookstore of Gloucester – Artist of the Month, the original illustrations of the book will be on display.
June 2 – Sawyer Free Children’s Library kicks off events with the official children’s book launch from 10:00am to 11:30am with the author, illustrator, and Sara Favazza. The event is co-hosted by The Bookstore of Gloucester.
June 9 – Cape Ann Museum will host a CAM Kids program from 10am to 12 noon.
June 16 – Sawyer Free Children’s Library hosts a Fiesta Children’s Program from 10:30am to 11:30am with authors Laura M. Alberghini Ventimiglia and Alice Gardner with activities from their books Nonna, What is St. Peter’s Fiesta? and St. Peter’s Fiesta: Gloucester, Massachusetts.
June 29 to July 1 – St. Peter’s Fiesta Kiosk by the Altar will have books available to purchase.
June 30 – The Bookstore of Gloucester will hold a book signing from 1pm to 3pm with the author, illustrator, and Sara Favazza.
Books are available at each of the above events and at the following:
The Bookstore, 61 Main Street, Gloucester
Harbor Loop Gifts, Building Center of Gloucester, 1 Harbor Loop, Gloucester
Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant Street, Gloucester
Buttieri Press, https://buttieripress.com
Sara Favazza unveiling the new Saint Peter, Saint Peter’s Fiesta opening ceremony, 2017.