After a one year hiatus from bocce, fireworks, live music and filling bellies with Worcester’s best food, the wait will come to an end next summer and the city’s residents can once again celebrate everything Italian.
And twice again celebrate everything Italian.
During the summer of 2018, Worcester will play host to not one, not two, but three different Italian festivals to celebrate Italian heritage, culture, and food.
Beginning on July 15, the first festival — Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel — is being run by the Mount Carmel Preservation Society, a group dedicated to preserving and elevating the Italian and Italian-American history, arts, culture and spiritual life in Worcester.
Attempts to reach an organizer of the event weren’t immediately returned on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
The second festival lined up for next summer — and making its return for the first time in ten years — is the Our Lady of Loretto Feast which will take place August 10-12 on the Our Lady of Loretto Church grounds.
Nino Giamei, spokesman for the Loretto Feast, said, “It’s been a long time since the Loretto parishioners have had a festival and our plan is to start small for 2018. Considering what we’re planning, I’m very comfortable where we’re at.”
After the recent closing of Mt. Carmel Church on Mulberry St, the parishioners from Mt. Carmel started a new Mt. Carmel parish inside Our Lady of Loretto.
“We’re going to take a lot of things we did well at the old Loretto festival and the old Mt. Carmel festival. This is our first really ambitious effort as a new parish and we are going to see how it all comes together,” Giamei said.
Giamei said there’s roughly 20 to 25 people helping organize the event to help raise money for the Our Lady of Loretto and new Mt.Carmel parishes.
Lastly, the final festival of the summer — the Worcester Italian Festival — will make its return next Aug. 17-19 after taking this summer off. In 2015 and 2016, the Worcester Italian Festival was held at Mt. Carmel to help raise money to keep the church open and help pay for any renovations that were needed to the church itself.
“We have a large group of volunteers returning to make sure that next year’s festival is just as successful as the previous two,” festival co-chair Gina Valentine said in an interview on Sept. 6.
Next year, however, the festival will be held at East Park on Shrewsbury St. According to Valentine, proceeds from that festival will go towards either several local charities or designated to two or three local families that may be in need or suffering a hardship.
In an interview on Wednesday, Sept. 13, Gary Vecchio, the head of the Shrewsbury St. Neighborhood Association, said, “I think if three different groups want to have Italian festivals then they should. I say the more festivals the better, and the fact that there are three of them, one shouldn’t hurt the other. To have a festival in the park, I think it’s wonderful.”
However, Vecchio said that there is talk about closing down a portion of Shrewsbury St for the event, something which he and the neighborhood association would be against it.
“So far, no one has had any communication with me about it, but it’s still early and I’m assuming at some point the people involved will want to have a dialogue about it with the neighborhood association to go over whatever their plans are,” Vecchio added.
According to Giamei, who was involved in the Worcester Italian Festival last year, last year’s festival saw around 30,000 people over the course of four days.
Even with those large attendance numbers, is there room for all three festivals to make money?
“We’re all going to have our festivals and it’s going to be a ‘I’ll go to yours, you go to mine’ situation,” Valentine said.
“We are going to find out [if there’s room]. I would think there is and I hope there is. I think the appeal of Italian food and Italian culture is big enough. I would like to think the second largest city in New England can handle three weekends of Italian festivals,” Giamei said.