Bensonhurst gears up for Santa Rosalia Festival
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The fourth and final Summer Stroll on Third for 2014 drew tens of thousands of visitors to Bay Ridge’s Third Avenue on Friday night. The avenue, which is normally busy with cars, was closed to vehicular traffic from 80th to 90th streets so that a pedestrian mall could be created. Attendees at the event strolled along the avenue, enjoyed dinner and drinks at sidewalk cafes, listened to singers and musicians playing along the route and got to know the avenue’s store owners.
As Summer Stroll took its final bow, organizers of the annual Santa Rosalia Festival in Bensonhurst were getting set for their big opening, set to take place on Thursday. The festival, which is held in honor of Saint Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily, will take place on 18th Avenue between Bay Ridge Parkway and 68th Street from Aug. 21 to 31.
Over the weekend, workers put up lights the colors of the Italian flag over 18th Avenue.
Expect lots of sausage and pepper sandwiches, cannolis, Italian music, rides and carnival games, along with lots of tarantella dances at the festival which is sponsored by the Santa Rosalia Society.
The festival, or “feast,” as longtime Bensonhurst residents refer to the event, does not come without controversy. Brooklyndaily.com reported reported on Aug. 11 that the sponsors and Community Board 11 officials were miffed when the city turned down their request to hold the 10-day festival a week earlier, starting Aug. 14, so that it would not bump up against the Labor Day weekend. The city approved the sponsor’s permit, but for the Aug. 21 to 31 time frame.
Under an agreement with the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), Summer Stroll on Third took place over four nights this year: July 18 and 25 and Aug. 8 and 15.
There was plenty to see and do Friday night — nearly early every block had a sidewalk café and a performance by a singing group.
The street fair even attracted a reality television star. Angela “Big Ang” Raiola, the tough but star of VH1’s “Mob Wives,” held court at the sidewalk café in front of Leo’s Casa Calamari Restaurant, posing for pictures with fans and autographing bottles of wine.
During a stroll up the avenue, the Brooklyn Eagle spotted a bit of bipartisanship. Democratic state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Coney Island- Bensonhurst-Staten Island) and Republican-Conservative Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) put politics aside for a night and had dinner at a sidewalk café with a group that included Brooklyn Conservative Party Chairman Jerry Kassar, his wife, Janet Kassar and Conservative Party Vice Chairman Fran Vella-Marrone.
Summer Stroll on Third is becoming one of the premiere warm weather events in Brooklyn, according to the leaders of the Merchants group, who said they plan to ask DOT to allow them to hold it eight nights next year.
The Merchants of Third Avenue sponsors Summer Stroll on Third with state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) and Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst).
Summer Stroll on Third is run under the auspices of DOT and is part of that agency’s citywide “Weekend Walks” program. Any change in the Summer Stroll schedule would require permission from DOT.
The first two Summer Stroll sessions on July 18 and 25 took place on Third Avenue between Bay Ridge Avenue and 80th Street.
The event moved south for the third installment on Aug. 8 and 15 to give pedestrians the opportunity to enjoy the restaurants and shops on that end of the commercial thoroughfare.