First Italian feast at St. Anthony’s after nearly 3 years lost – The Daily Gazette

SCHENECTADY — Chatter about St. Anthony’s Festa — one of the most popular celebrations in the city — actually made it to the band waves of truckers sharing details about the fete on their CB radios. In fact, one volunteer for the 3-day festival is still connected — some 84 years later.

Mary Pratico was just 10-years-old when she attended with her parents back then. Now, at 94, she has watched the Festa grow into a huge community event intended to honor the memory of St. Anthony.

Now Pratico, and her son Dan, volunteer annually to help honor the patron saint of St. Anthony’s Church on Seward Place. Today marks the kickoff of the extravaganza.

Dozens of volunteers have been toiling, some for months, preparing pasta, sausages, bread galore and other goodies in the church’s kitchen.

Sister Maria Rosa Querini’s baked goods are a cherished part of the Festa. Baking the wide-range of Italian sweets takes place over many weeks in different stages. One day was reserved for making frosting, another for baking. After using some 25 pounds of flour, the volunteers packaged chocolate chip cookies, biscotti, wine cookies, rosettes and breads. Querini also makes old-world-style trippa and sofritos to serve at the event.

On Thursday, the volunteers’ hard work came into view as dozens of racks lined the walls filled with hundreds of trays of Italian pastries. Volunteers each run an outside booth on the church grounds for attendees to buy their favorite dishes. The event starts today, and goes from 5 to 10 pm, at the church’s property on Seward Place and resumes again Saturday, from 4 to 10 pm and Sunday from 4 to 9 pm

In addition to the Italian and Latin American dishes, a free concert takes place each night, starting with Big Sky Country on Friday, Chicago Total Access Band, a Chicago cover band, on Saturday and The Refrigerators will be featured on Sunday.

“We pride ourselves on the fact that we have three very well known bands, top-notch entertainment,” said Frank Ranucci, parish office manager, who has organized the past 10 Festas.

Ranucci also said the church has good relationships with its neighbors, who allow them to use their parking lots for the event. Visitors may also use the free shuttle service available to take them from the surrounding parking lots to the church grounds.

The event was suspended during the pandemic, so organizers are expecting this edition to attract a big turnout.

Since the first honorary St. Anthony’s festival in the early 1900s when a group of Italians settled in Boston, the celebration has grown into a large, well-known community event. The Schenectady church has a special committee just for the Festa, a group that starts preparations a full year ahead of time. During COVID, they even met on Zoom. st. Anthony’s relied on drive-thru sales and other dinners during the pandemic to support the church.

The Festa team is a “well-oiled machine,” said Sister Lois Ferro on Thursday, who busied herself preparing pastry containers with labels and stirring fresh sauces.

This Schenectady favorite would not be possible without the unwavering support within the church community.

“I’m very proud of it. We really don’t have another one in the city like this,” Ferro said. “I’ve worked here for years. My children went to St. Anthony’s School and as a parent you’re required to help and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

While Querini oversees the cooking for the event, she credits all the sisters and volunteers with coming together for the event.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it if we didn’t have these good, special volunteers. Some of the women come in at 5:30 in the morning to bake,” Querini said.

The event is the product of a tight-knit community.

“It’s a tradition. You see the community and you see the people that you haven’t seen in awhile. It’s a great gathering place. The music is great, the food is great. Everybody’s helpful and happy to be here working. The people that are working are here because they want to be, it’s all volunteer,” Ferro said.

More from The Daily Gazette:

Categories: Schenectady, Schenectady County

Leave a Comment