Yes, there are Italians in Federal Hill, with good food and festivals. Yet when they lack something—like, say, drunk men in costume running across an axle-greased telephone pole above the ocean in order to win glory by grabbing a flag–then I’m forced to travel up to Massachusetts for my fix.  I don’t expect many Rhode Islanders to join me in Gloucester this weekend (90 whole miles away! Where doughboys are called fried dough and the frozen lemonade isn’t Del’s!  What am I, trying to kill you with shock?).  But those with the stomach to read on will be rewarded with a unique video.

What started as a festival honoring fishermen in 1931 has evolved to a 4-day party, always held the last weekend in June.  St. Peter’s Fiesta is a stunning mix of devotion (masses, processions of religious statues, the blessing of the fishing fleets), athletism (both men’s and women’s seine boat races, road race, etc.), entertainment (international and local musicians and singers, big Sunday parade, fireworks), and more drinking than a college frat house could imagine.  There are carnival rides for the kids, conveniently-located bars for the adults (BTW, Fisherman’s Brew is right across from the rides.  Since Nikki’s Liquors in N. Providence stopped carrying it a few months ago, I have to get my pints in person), and fried or greasy food for everyone.

But the biggest draw for Fiesta (even more than Grandma’s big Sunday dinner) is the Greasy Pole.  Each year there’s a junior contest on Friday, a big-boy contest on Saturday, and a “walk of champions” on Sunday, all of which draw thousands of spectators. There’s nothing like seeing gangs of very, very drunk men (some of whom I’m related to by marriage) running around the city in costume (always, always several in drag), psyching themselves up with choruses of “Viva San Pietro!”.  Then they basically destroy their costumes, occasionally break ribs and fingers, and look as if they’re trying to crush their testacles, all in the name of honor (for them) and entertainment (for everyone else) in the world’s weirdest capture-the-flag contest.  It’s barbaric but fun, and it’ll be my 9th Fiesta in a row.  If you’re able to handle the road trip, don’t miss it.  Just follow 95N to 128N over the bridge into Gloucester, take your first right at the rotary onto Washington Street, and drive until you hit (not literally) happy crowds of people.  Buona Fiesta!


Rides/music ‘til midnight; Seine races Sat. and Sun. at 4:45; Greasy Pole Sat. and Sun. around 5:30 (both at Pavillion Beach near the rides); parade Sun. at noon downtown.

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