By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
One of the most spectacular, unusual traditional Italian-American feasts in the United States is taking place from July 10 to 21 in Williamsburg.
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Paulinus of Nola features the lifting of an 80-foot-tall, three-ton statue known as the Giglio, which means “lily” in Italian. The statue is topped by a representation of St. Paulinus, an early Christian martyr who was taken prisoner by the Turks; when he was finally released, St. Paulinus returned to Nola in a boat and the people all ran to shore to greet him with lilies.
The feast, which originated with immigrants from the region of Nola, is now one of the most popular Italian-American street festivals in the New York area, is now second in size only to the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy. It will have live entertainment nightly, vendors selling Italian specialties and international delicacies, parades, a bazaar with games, children’s rides – and for the first time, a “best meatball” contest.
The feast will take place weekdays from 6 to 11 p.m., and weekends from noon to midnight at North 8th and Havemeyer streets.
The Giglio itself, which also holds an Italian brass band, a singer and the parish priest, is carried by 130 well-trained men headed by a capo. At the same time, another crew of 120 men carry a life-size boat carrying a statue of St. Paulinus and actors portraying the Turks and the pirates. The crews lift their vessels up and down while parading through the streets.
Opening night will be Wednesday, July 10. Thursday, July 11 will feature a children’s giglio lift, and the Questa (a band and singers going through the streets of the neighborhood) will take place on Saturday, July 13. Giglio Sunday itself, featuring the Lifting of the Giglio, will take place Sunday, July 14. The meatball contest will be held on Monday, July 15, and the following day will be Tuesday, July 16. A “Night Lift” will take placde on Wednesday, July 17; a Children’s Giglio Lift will take place on Friday, July 19.
An Old-Timer’s Day, featuring former capos, will be held the final day of the feast, Monday, July 16. The same day will feature Masses throughout the day in English, Italian, Polish, Haitian Creole and Spanish at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 275 North 8th St.
The feast was captured in the 2001 documentary, “Heaven Touches Brooklyn in July,” by Bensonhurst filmmaker Tony de Nonno, with narration by John Turturro (“Barton Fink”) and Michael Badalucco (“The Practice”).