Over 60 vendors will be on hand for the six-day Italian festival, which begins on Friday July 21 at 6 p.m. outside the Church of St. Ann on Jefferson and Seventh streets.
The feast will extend over a five-block area, stretching from Madison to Adams streets between Eighth and Sixth streets, and will include games, rides, food and music.
"When people think of Hoboken, they think of Frank Sinatra and the St. Ann's Feast," said Fr. Thomas Crangle O.F.M. Cap, the pastor of St. Ann's Church. "Every year I have a blast."
The event will begin with the traditional procession of St. Ann and conclude with the Feast Day Liturgy on July 26. That day, Newark Archbishop John Meyers J.C.D., will be in attendance.
Ethnic food, bands In addition to the pasta and pastries that overwhelm the senses for blocks, the feast will also include for the first time ever various ethnic dishes, such as Polish pierogies, Mexican fajitas and French crepes, in addition to the Italian standards like fried calamari, rice balls and sausage and pepper.
"It's an attempt to celebrate all of Hoboken," said Crangle, who is also the city's police chaplain. "Hoboken used to be almost all Italian, but we want to be able to incorporate the entire community, we want to reach out to everyone."
Part of the Feast's attempt to include other cultures in the celebration can be seen with their decision to lead the festivities with "Latin Night" on opening night, July 21. Award winning composer and singer Johnny Pacheco will be performing some of his greatest salsa hits to kick of the big event. According to the event's organizers, an area in front of the stage will be made available for dancing.
In addition to the Latin beat, other performers throughout the week will include The Blue Notes, formerly known as Harold Melvin's Blue Notes, who will be singing R&B and soul classics, and the ensemble called Fortune, which will be performing big band hits from the 1940s.
On Tuesday night, July 25, the Chicago Rat Pack will be singing the hits that made Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. famous, as well as performing some of the skits the three would act out in Las Vegas.
Another crowd favorite that has been part of the St. Ann's feast for at least 10 of the last 15 years is The Nerds. The high-energy, pop-rock cover band, known for their harmony, will be singing hits from the fifties through the nineties and beyond, on Monday, July 24.
On the last night of the festival, soprano Christina Fontanelli will fill the streets with her sweet operatic sound as she sings Italian Classics to commemorate those who began the feast and continue the tradition today. The award winning Fontanelli has toured all over the world, performing in countless operas and for both President's Clinton and Bush. In January of 2005, she opened the ceremonies at the President's Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C.
But wait, there's more Music and food will not be the only attractions at this year's feast, as rides, games and authentic Italian cuisine contribute to the nostalgic ambiance that causes so many to return year after year.
Though there is not enough space to include the Ferris Wheel this year, children will be able to enjoy an array of "kiddie rides" as well as classic carnival games like the water gun horse race and the basketball toss.
In addition, kids and adults who are young at heart will be invited to make a memory with the 'big chair' picture or create a piece of art with colored sand in a bottle.
For the older crowd there will be a fully stocked bar in the "Café Under the Stars," which is situated in the parking lot behind the church. The café will hold a nightly raffle drawing with cash prizes as well as a 'Grand Raffle' drawing at the end of the feast. Last year's 'Grand Raffle' winner took home $13,000.
Perhaps the most anticipated part of the feast is not the chance to listen to great music or to take home thousands of dollars, but rather to walk through the streets on a warm summer night with a bag of home-made zeppoles at your fingertips.
And delicious fried zeppoles For years, the legendary zeppoles have been one of the most defining features of the St. Ann's Feast. To this day, the 96-year-old zeppole recipe is one of the most closely guarded secrets within the St. Ann's Guild, a women's organization with close ties to the church. In addition to carrying the statue of St. Ann in the procession, the guild is responsible for cooking the zeppoles.
Within the guild, only a few of the women who actually do the cooking, known as the "dough girls," are allowed access to the secret recipe.
Twenty-five thousand are expected to attend this year's feast, which according to Crangle, is to be the largest yet.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org